The 2014 Senate “Race to the Top”

Senate Election Polls - 10-14-14All midterm races bring with them a certain amount of opportunity to be gained – they either validate a President’s policies and leadership, or provide a referendum. In the last century, we would be hard pressed to name a President more polarizing than our current one, and as a result, these midterms will, without question, make a statement about his presidency.

Three weeks from tonight, we’ll have a pretty good idea on what that statement will be.

However, I don’t want to discuss quite yet what I believe will happen that Tuesday night. The race for Senate control has certainly been a revealing one, and here are two things that I believe conservatives should note in particular:

  • For starters, as bad as this presidency has been, Republicans are likely going to lose a few states that they have historically held. This testifies to the age-old truth that you cannot and should not run on the strategically nonsensical philosophy that “You won’t govern like the other guy…” People want leadership and they need reasons to pull the handle FOR someone, not just go to vote knowing who they DON’T want. Too many Republican leaders have recently run (and led) on the strategy that they’re NOT President Obama, which begs the question: if they really feel they must point that out, perhaps they have more in common than they want to let on??
  • Secondly, not all Democrats are as extreme as our current President and recently retired Attorney General, and they’re proving that by shying very far away from them during this election style. You won’t find Democrat candidates for Senate booking the Obamas to come and join them on the campaign trail. They know the Obamas are unpopular, extreme, and a recipe for failure. What conservatives need to be doing is defining their opponents based on their party affiliation and tying them to their leadership in spite of this fact. Conservative candidates should be confident enough in their beliefs to not only define and describe their leadership principles and style, but also to define their opponents’ principles in a way that keeps them on the defensive. The best defense during campaign season is a good offense.
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The Year of Pajama Boy

I love “End of the Year” Reviews. There’s always that bittersweet aspect of looking back over the previous 12 months and reevaluating your highs and lows that gives you a great perspective when closing out one year and looking to the next.

Much like Pajama Boy in the above picture, as he looks back over his shoulder, thinking “happy, happy, happy” thoughts about the rollout of Obamacare…

My favorite Review always comes from the inimitable Dave Barry. His ability to combine actual headlines with slapstick humor provides the best laughs when looking back over the foolish mistakes our society has made over the last 52 weeks. I’m currently waiting impatiently for him to release this year’s summary, and primarily what is sure to be some gut-wrenching, cry your eyes out, mockery of Pajama Boy. No pressure, Dave.

One of my all-time favorite writers in general is Peggy Noonan, with her capable and constructive observations of trends both cultural and political. Her latest review was published in today’s Wall Street Journal, and the highlights include the political word of the year (hint: it’s related to the rollout of Obamacare), the sentence of the year (hint: it’s related to Obamacare), and nice, plain words of the year, which have nothing at all to do with Obamacare. It’s worth a read, even if she fails to mention the poster child of the year (see  Pajama Boy below).

 

Speaking of the President, I even appreciated his summary of 2013, for what it’s worth. Despite his “rosy spin on a difficult year,” the President did admit the mistakes he could afford to admit politically, and even said that they “screwed it up,” though he was only referring to the start of his health care law, not the entirety of the behemoth. I’m guessing they corrected the start once his PR team landed on the brilliant idea of the Obamacare poster boy: Pajama Boy.

I really do hate to be hating on Pajama Boy so much (ok, that’s a lie – I’m enjoying it immensely), but just so your impression of him isn’t only being formed by my cynicism, allow me to share with you the thoughts of Rich Lowry, over at National Review Online:

Perhaps the goal of OFA was to create a readily mockable image to draw attention to its message, in which case Pajama Boy was a brilliantly successful troll. The right immediately Photoshopped him into the Mandela funeral selfie and emblazoned his photo with derisive lines like “Hey girl, I live with my parents” and “How did you know I went to Oberlin?”

But it’s hard not to see Pajama Boy as an expression of the Obama vision, just like his forebear Julia, the Internet cartoon from the 2012 campaign. Pajama Boy is Julia’s little brother. She progressed through life without any significant family or community connections. He is the picture of perpetual adolescence. Neither is a symbol of self-reliant, responsible adulthood.

And so both are ideal consumers of government. Julia needed the help of Obama-supported programs at every juncture of her life, and Pajama Boy is going to get his health insurance through Obamacare (another image shows him looking very pleased in a Christmas sweater, together with the words “And a happy New Year with health insurance”).

Two paragraphs later, Lowry hammers home the final nail into the coffin:

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote long ago of the infantilizing tendency of all-encompassing government. “It would be like the authority of a parent,” he wrote in a famous passage, “if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood.” If you wanted to illustrate what Tocqueville was getting at in one meme, Pajama Boy would be good way to do it.

So at the end of a year highlighted by the poor and “botched” implementation of a terrible healthcare law in which we find the President a bigger liar than when President George H. W. Bush uttered his “Read my lips” promise, we find ourselves inspired  and with the cockles of our hearts warmed to no end with an image of a perpetual adolescent longing to talk about getting that new health insurance.

Take heart, friends: 2014 can only get better. The Year of Pajama Boy is coming to a close.

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Evaluating the Higher Education Debacle

wsjAs a Wall Street Journal subscriber for the last four years, I firmly believe that most young people would be better off if they had skipped their college education entirely and if they or their parents would have purchased them lifetime subscriptions to the Journal instead. And it’s articles such as these, in which the author (a Ms. Finley) interacts with Dr. Richard Vedder, that convince me of this strategy.

In order to whet your appetite and keep you longing for more, I’ll just include a few choice quotes from this excellent article and critique of America’s pathetic system of higher education. We desperately need to recognize what we’re doing wrong and how we’re bankrupting our lives and the lives of our children.

Richard Vedder: The Real Reason College Costs So Much

  • “College costs have continued to explode despite 50 years of ostensibly benevolent government interventions, according to Mr. Vedder, and the president’s new plan could exacerbate the trend. By Mr. Vedder’s lights, the cost conundrum started with the Higher Education Act of 1965, a Great Society program that created federal scholarships and low-interest loans aimed at making college more accessible.

    In 1964, federal student aid was a mere $231 million. By 1981, the feds were spending $7 billion on loans alone, an amount that doubled during the 1980s and nearly tripled in each of the following two decades, and is about $105 billion today. Taxpayers now stand behind nearly $1 trillion in student loans.

    Meanwhile, grants have increased to $49 billion from $6.4 billion in 1981. By expanding eligibility and boosting the maximum Pell Grant by $500 to $5,350, the 2009 stimulus bill accelerated higher ed’s evolution into a middle-class entitlement. Fewer than 2% of Pell Grant recipients came from families making between $60,000 and $80,000 a year in 2007. Now roughly 18% do.”

  • “Or consider Princeton, which recently built a resplendent $136 million student residence with leaded glass windows and a cavernous oak dining hall (paid for in part with a $30 million tax-deductible donation by Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman). The dorm’s cost approached $300,000 per bed.

    Universities, Mr. Vedder says, “are in the housing business, the entertainment business; they’re in the lodging business; they’re in the food business. Hell, my university runs a travel agency which ordinary people off the street can use.”

    Meanwhile, university endowments don’t pay taxes on their income. Harvard’s $31 billion endowment, which has been financed by tax-deductible donations, may be America’s largest tax shelter.”

  • “Former Ohio State President Gordon Gee (who resigned in June after making defamatory remarks about Catholics) earned nearly $2 million in compensation last year while living in a 9,630 square-foot Tudor mansion on a 1.3-acre estate. The Columbus Camelot includes $673,000 in art decor and a $532 shower curtain in a guest bathroom. Ohio State also paid roughly $23,000 per month for Mr. Gee’s soirees and half a million for him to travel the country on a private jet. Such taxpayer-funded extravagance has not made its way into Mr. Obama’s speeches.

    Colleges have also used the gusher of taxpayer dollars to hire more administrators to manage their bloated bureaucracies and proliferating multicultural programs. The University of California system employs 2,358 administrative staff in just its president’s office.”

  • “Mr. Vedder notes that, by contrast, “you don’t have to worry about this at the University of Phoenix. One thing about the for-profits is that they are laser-like devoted to instruction.” Although for-profits like the University of Phoenix and DeVry spend more money on marketing, they don’t contain as much administrative overhead.

    ‘The Obama administration has been beating up on [for-profits] pretty hard for the past two to three years,” Mr. Vedder says. “It’s true that drop-out rates are disproportionately higher at the for-profits, but it’s also true that the for-profits are reaching the exact audience that Obama wants to reach”—low-income minorities, many of whom are the first in their family to attend college.

    Today, only about 7% of recent college grads come from the bottom-income quartile compared with 12% in 1970 when federal aid was scarce. All the government subsidies intended to make college more accessible haven’t done much for this population, says Mr. Vedder. They also haven’t much improved student outcomes or graduation rates, which are around 55% at most universities (over six years).”

  • “Nor is the president addressing what Mr. Vedder believes is a fundamental problem: too many kids going to college. “Thirty-percent of the adult population has college degrees,” he notes. “The Department of Labor tells us that only 20% or so of jobs require college degrees. We have 115,520 janitors in the United States with bachelor’s degrees or more. Why are we encouraging more kids to go to college?”

    Mr. Vedder sees similarities between the government’s higher education and housing policies, which created a bubble and precipitated the last financial crisis. “In housing, we had artificially low interest rates. The government encouraged people with low qualifications to buy a house. Today, we have low interest rates on student loans. The government is encouraging kids to go to school who are unqualified just as it encouraged people to buy a home who are unqualified.”

    The higher-ed bubble, he says, is “already in the process of bursting,” which is reflected by all of the “unemployed or underemployed college graduates with big debts.” The average student loan debt is $26,000, but many graduates, especially those with professional degrees, have six-figure balances.”

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Quote-worthy Material

From Peggy Noonan:

  • “The U.S. surveillance state as outlined and explained by Edward Snowden is not worth the price. Its size, scope and intrusiveness, its ability to target and monitor American citizens, its essential unaccountability—all these things are extreme.”
  • “It is a great irony, and history will marvel at it, that the president most committed to expanding the centrality, power, prerogatives and controls of the federal government is also the president who, through lack of care, arrogance, and an absence of any sense of prudential political boundaries, has done the most in our time to damage trust in government.”

From Niall Ferguson:

  • Toward the end of “Democracy in America” he warned against the government becoming “an immense tutelary power . . . absolute, detailed, regular . . . cover[ing] [society’s] surface with a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules through which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot clear a way.”
  • “Tocqueville also foresaw exactly how this regulatory state would suffocate the spirit of free enterprise: ‘It rarely forces one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one’s acting; it does not destroy, it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes, and finally reduces [the] nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd.'”
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