Constitutionally Right

The only way to predict the future is to create it.

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Location: Yardley, PA (Bucks County), United States

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Less Is More - Philly Burbs

Oh boy are we in for a treat. Election season is approaching and all sorts of candidates with various behavior disorders and ego issues will be stepping forward all wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. Who could ask for more? I, for one, can’t wait for this scene that regularly happens from sea to shining sea.
Seems like these people step forward every 2 years with grand plans and not one thing changes (except maybe for the worse). There’s the newbies who wash out pretty quickly and then the long-term elected officials who already know that nothing will ever get done so they just play the game, ride the wave, roll their eyes at their Oath of Office and keep getting re-elected for some weird reason.
I’d really like to vote for the best person, but they rarely run for anything. I wonder if it’s always been like this or if our politics has morphed into something way beyond its original intent. From my view it’s become nothing more than a feeding trough (funded by you and me) of every special interest known to man. Personally, I think that it’s the rest of us who are most special, but that’s just me.
I asked a very trusted elected official in our state capital of Harrisburg, PA about this and he said about 1/3 of elected officials are good-to-go. That means that we’re not horribly far off from the goal of slightly more than 50% good people in office. The question remains on how to get there and I believe that the answer is simple even though too many of us suffer from ”governmentitis” (or an infantile and irrational dependence on government).
In all fairness, though, there are good people on both sides who run for office. Sadly, they’re too often overlooked because they don’t get party support specifically because of their independence. There’s no one to blame but ourselves, but these are the exact people we need today. The good candidates, in my humble opinion, can increase their chances of winning with courage. Assess today’s issues, throw “party” nonsense aside and present a platform of pure unfettered honesty. Of course this will lead to personal attacks, possible vandalism and overall unpleasantness, but knowing that up front diminishes its surprise.
Here’s a sample platform that anyone is free to use. It might apply almost anywhere and none of it is original - it’s just rare, since many even run for office with no platform whatsoever being afraid to say much of anything of substance.
Without further ado:

- Spending in Harrisburg needs to be slashed by at least 1/3 or more. Accountability and self-reliance must be restored in a way that encourages good decisions (to include favoring private charity over the unintended consequences of government programs).
- Resolving the healthcare crisis is a top priority so that everyone will have full access to quality medical care. The doctor/patient relationship must drive solutions vs. the patient/person-sitting-in-a-cubicle-somewhere-who-knows-nothing-about-medicine relationship. The driving mechanism should be some form of insurance company payment to the patient who will then pay the provider. The current system of insurance companies bypassing the customer by paying the provider directly is what leads to $60 Band-Aids and $200 aspirin. Individuals need to have more control and more choice with accurate information.
Much of this began in the 1930’s when companies bundled healthcare with employment. They reduced salaries by the cost of benefits, selected benefits for their employees and then got the tax-break for themselves. Might be better to increase salaries, allow people to select their own plans and create tax-breaks for individuals. A few things have to happen:
a. reduce coverage mandates - allow people to select plans that suit their own needs
b. access plans nationwide
c. caps on NON-ECONOMIC damages to reduce lawsuit abuse and minimize inefficient/overly expensive defensive medicine
The $2 trillion annual cost of US healthcare is more than enough to solve this way overly-
complicated disaster. Free market efficiency and simplification will not only provide for the poor
much more thoroughly than any government program, but will also create an environment that
even competes for pre-existing conditions.
- The federal government should get out of the education business and the state government should reduce its role. Each school district should assume a greater responsibility for how it runs itself with minimal state oversight. Parents and teachers should drive curriculums and policies and make those decisions for themselves with a much greater degree of freedom to do so.
- Pennsylvania must become a Right-To-Work state where union membership and/or union dues are not a condition of employment. This will attract opportunity for EVERYONE and radically improve the marketplace overnight. Legislated advantages, intimidation and political manipulation create the hostile environments that drive away the business that we would all benefit from. Competence, quality and value would all spike and even unions would find more work.

So there it is in all its glory. Please feel free to comment and maybe we can, together, perfect this suggested platform for some industrious candidate out there who’s ready to rumble. The chances of getting good people to run, electing the best candidates and ensuring their competence as elected officials improve in direct correlation to the number of constituents who educate themselves, vote and pay attention so, at a bare minimum, more of us need to educate ourselves, vote and pay attention.
Thanks and Happy New Year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Vouchers, Merit Pay and Heroes - Philly Burbs

There’s a big movement among my Conservative buddies to bring vouchers and merit pay to our public schools. Vouchers are government payments to a family that can be used to offset private school costs if they opt out of their community’s public school. Merit pay is paying teachers based on performance.
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m as Conservative as it gets. I think that Democrats are weak, delusional and generally mean. You will only get my guns from my cold dead hands. And I strongly believe in a federal government so small that it barely exists.
So it would seem odd that I’m not in support of vouchers and merit pay. I’m open-minded so please feel free to set me straight if I’m wrong.
Vouchers seem like another shuffling act of passing the football around gaining no ground whatsoever. Wouldn’t it be better to empower residents than to encourage them to abandon their community? Is it possible that government policies are often the root cause of failures and, if so, would more government policies really solve anything?
My first concern is that using vouchers to leave a community’s public school seeking greener pastures will drain the better talent and leave those behind most in need. The argument is that those children will fail anyway since no one’s looking out for them, but that’s the whole point. What kind of communities are we creating where we don’t look out for one another? We seek government solutions thereby absolving us of our responsibilities. This is the core underlying theme of what’s gone horribly wrong throughout the nation - soliciting government to do what we need to do for ourselves and our neighbors.
My state of Pennsylvania has 500+ public school districts each held to a set of government mandates and teacher union rules. I sat with our newspaper’s Editorial Board interviewing 17 state and federal candidates last time around and the biggest obstacle to any type of reform was the 66 page Pennsylvania State Constitution modified in the 1960’s by lawyers at the Constitutional Convention. They pulled a fast one and I’ll bet that many other states have similar challenges.
The real solution, in my view, is to encourage every single school district to do whatever they like. The state might have basic educational guidelines, but school boards, parents and educators will regain the right to run their own schools however they wish. This may require a Constitutional Convention to restore the various state constitutions to their original form void of obstacles to common sense.
This leads to Merit Pay. I served full-time in the Marine Corps for 4 ½ years and haven’t yet found anyone more competent and thorough than those I served with at any price. Is it possible that some are driven by things other than money like, oh, public service? Good teachers should be well paid and those not embracing excellence terminated.
Those who feel that they’re not paid what they’re worth are free to take their valuable skills where they’re more appreciated. Some communities might give merit pay a whirl, but mandating it from government is just another opportunity for fraud. How will performance be measured and will the merit pay system open up a whole new arena of complication and abuse? Pretty sure it will.
I personally think that a simple “Pass/Fail” structure of annual raises would be the formula and a failure would result in a new job elsewhere. Pursue teaching if you love to teach and pursue sales or something else if you love to make money. You’ll quickly find that making money is almost always directly related to what extent you bring value to others. Putting yourself first usually results in poor business performance. You’ll also find that good teachers make good salespeople. Anyone see the connection?
We live in an unnecessarily complicated world and I believe that vouchers and merit pay for teachers will make it more so. Our kids aren’t numbers and performance from district to district cannot be standardized (but, again, individual districts would be free to implement merit pay if they like).
The answer is to drastically simplify everything, embrace a very high level of efficiency, obliterate the obstacles to reform that are mired in bureaucracy and allow communities to define themselves with minimal state interference and none federal. There’s more than enough money to accomplish anything with if spent correctly by the right people beginning with spending education dollars on education. Teachers, kids and parents deserve the best which will only happen by putting these heroes in charge and not with additional government nonsense.
Of course, making the right changes are a monumental task and many will say that it’s I who’s delusional and overly idealistic. There’s definitely a chance that I’m stupid because I honestly don’t get it, but I’m a firm believer in putting the customer in charge. It’s a formula that works wherever it’s tried and failure is generally the result of government interference and/or political manipulation.
So good luck with all the “merit pay” and “voucher” efforts out there, but I think it’s time for a total overhaul and not a Band-Aid on a gaping wound.