June 13, 2010


From Pope Benedict's Encyclical Deus Caritas Est:

...Love—caritas—will always prove necessary, even in the most just society. There is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such. There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbour is indispensable. The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person—every person—needs: namely, loving personal concern.

We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need. The Church is one of those living forces: she is alive with the love enkindled by the Spirit of Christ. This love does not simply offer people material help, but refreshment and care for their souls, something which often is even more necessary than material support. In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialist conception of man: the mistaken notion that man can live "by bread alone" (Mt 4:4; cf. Dt 8:3)—a conviction that demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human....

I could write a long screed about how subsidiarity should be our organizing principle in public life, but what's the use. The people who would "get it" will tend towards that sort of thing anyway. And anyone else who reads... their minds will just glaze over.

Word Note: Many Catholic terms that seem portentous and alien are just nicknames retained when other groups have moved with the times. "Encyclical" just means circular letter. In olden times there were no bulk-mailings. A letter from a leader to the people would be passed from one person to the next. In this case from one bishop to the next.

More Important Word Note: (Wikipedia)
Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. The Oxford English Dictionary defines subsidiarity as the idea that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level. The concept is applicable in the fields of government, political science, cybernetics, management, military (Mission Command) and, metaphorically, in the distribution of software module responsibilities in object-oriented programming (according to the Information expert design guideline). Subsidiarity is, ideally or in principle, one of the features of federalism, where it asserts the rights of the parts over the whole.

The word subsidiarity is derived from the Latin word subsidiarius and was first described formally in Catholic social teaching (see Subsidiarity (Catholicism)).[1] The concept or principle is found in several constitutions around the world (for example, the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which asserts States rights)...
Posted by John Weidner at 7:47 AM

July 1, 2008

They all laughed...

..when I suggested that George W Bush was the visionary and that following presidents would have to follow the templates he created...

AP / JENNIFER LOVEN: Obama to Expand Bush's Faith Based Programs
Reaching out to evangelical voters, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is announcing plans that would expand President Bush's program steering federal social service dollars to religious groups and — in a move sure to cause controversy — support their ability to hire and fire based on faith...

The grownups lead, the children follow...

Posted by John Weidner at 11:03 AM

November 18, 2006

You go to war (against the welfare state) with the President you have...

AJ Strata has an interesting piece on "Bush Conservatives." I don't agree with every point, but he's really on my wavelength...

....Bush Conservatives not only believe in Reagan’s 11th commandment to not speak ill of fellow conservatives - we live it. From the Gang of 14, to Harriet Miers, to Dubai Ports World and to the immigration issue - there has been a brand of Republican which eschewed the 11th commandment. So let the Republicans be defined by that group - Bush Conservatives will be defined by their antithesis. Bush conservatives are not afraid of the word ‘compromise’. They despise the word ‘failure’. If there is a good idea, we do not care what party gets credit - we care that the good ideas get enacted. It is not Party uber America anymore.

Bush Conservatives, like Bush himself, are for lower taxes and focused government (someplace between liberals and libertarians is the proper role of government). They are not for destroying the public education system, they are for making it work. And they understand private school access is one option. They understand that a prescription drug benefit for Medicare/Medicaid will reduce overall costs and provide a respectable end of life for our seniors who came before us. Yes, it costs a lot to care for our elderly. But it doesn’t represent big government. It represents a big heart. I am not for throwing money away. The prescription drug benefit was a nice optimizing solution to a broken system. It was consumer driven (which is why the liberals should not be allowed to go in and insert bureacratic price controls) and it will save money that was being wasted in emergency room treatments for normal problems....(Thanks to The Anchoress.)

Look, I think big government is one of the worst things that can happen to a country. It inevitably tries to become bigger yet, to eat everything, and it inevitably tries to make smaller the only obstacle to it's cancer-like expansion—individuals and groups who would rather take care of themselves. The welfare state is not moral, it is profoundly immoral. And its end result is the destruction of human society, of human souls, which is just what we are seeing in Europe today.

BUT, we aren't going to get rid of it. To put it bluntly, giving women the vote meant that government was going to get into the business of making people secure. (And probably the same thing would have happened with only men voting, just a little bit more slowly.) There is no way that shrink-big-government politics is going to shrink big government. The votes just aren't there, and never will be. Our canoe is heading for the falls, the current moves faster and faster, and there is probably no escape possible.

The one conceivable escape from this trap is what President Bush called "The Ownership Society." That is, giving to individuals control of, and responsibility for, their portion of the government security blanket. The classic example would be putting people's Social Security tax into private accounts. This has the potential to transform the humblest burger-flipper or sales clerk into an investor, a person with assets. To, in fact, transform their picture of themselves, from hapless client to person in control of his or her destiny.

This is the reason I look at things differently than the sort of guys who write for NRO. They survey the scene and say, "Nothing's happening, except government is growing." I look and see that President Bush has swapped Federal dollars for a law that can provide accountability in public schools, and give parents the possibility of demanding transfers to different schools...I don't call that "nothing." I'd like more, that's for damn sure. But I don't see Republican failure at all.

And yes, I wish Bush would promote these ideas more eloquently and forcefully. But, well, that's dubya. You go to war (against the welfare state) with the President you have... (A few more of my posts on the Ownership Society here)

Posted by John Weidner at 1:36 PM

November 1, 2006

Bush Revolution continues...

Card-Carrying-Conservative types expect "The Revolution" to be enacted in neat packages, sort of like LBJ's War on Poverty. Meanwhile, they can't even see the actual revolution...

Thomas Carroll, NY Sun...The teachers unions contribute substantial sums to incumbents on both sides of the political aisle in the state Legislature, but in contested statewide races, they are among the Democratic Party's staunchest allies. That's one reason that Hillary Clinton announced her initial candidacy for the Senate at the headquarters of the United Federation of Teachers, New York City's teachers union. That's also why statewide Democratic candidates for office typically offer no ideas that run counter to those held by union bosses.

Given this history, one might reasonably suppose that the likely Democratic takeover of the governor's office might not be good news for those who favor school choice or major educational reforms. A few early signs, however, suggest that Eliot Spitzer, if elected, may break this partisan mold.

Over the past year, Mr. Spitzer has been speaking much more boldly about education reform than any other major figure in his party...

...The federal No Child Left Behind Act, by increasing the focus on test results and accountability, has made the disappointing performance of New York's urban schools more and more difficult to defend. No serious person any longer argues with the central premise that the current educational system in New York is broken.

With the worst test scores concentrated in the state's urban areas, political support for the status quo, especially among minority legislators, is evaporating....[My emphasis. Thanks to Orrin]

NCLB was designed for this. To change the terms of the debate. Change them from "Our schools need more money!" to "Is there something fundamentally wrong here?"

You can't get good answers until you start asking the right questions. I learned that long ago from reading Peter Drucker. NCLB is wickedly designed to keep asking the same questions, year after year, as test scores appear. "Why is this school failing?" "Why hasn't this school improved over last year?"

The standard schools must meet is not just doing well, but improving every year. All of them. It's crazy. That is, crazy within the the terms of the status quo. As a tool of revolutionary change, it's brilliantly designed. A bribe of a few billions to poor sozzled Teddy Kennedy to get it passed was peanuts.

All the NRO types could see was Bush supporting more big government, more spending. Same for Kennedy, though he was in favor of course. Neither saw a new lens for looking at the old situation. A new way of thinking about old messy problems.

It's perfectly understandable lefties are chewing the carpets therse days. It's not just their political strength that's being undermined, but also their world-view.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:04 AM

August 7, 2006

Strangely chilly...

There's some good sense in Government Shrinkage Goal, By Grover Norquist. And yet it's painful to see what a small-minded man he is, only seeing the dollars-and-cents aspect, and not the deeper spiritual and cultural implications of what he advocates...(Thanks to Orrin)

Norquist writes:

....The solution to the spending problem is to replace politically suicidal, or at best difficult, efforts to "cut" spending with politically profitable "reforms" of programs that will reduce their long-term costs. [Somebody--maybe Orrin-- recently wrote that having the government provide a lot of security was to "cost" of giving women the vote. I think that's true, and that that's a lot of the reason why it's politically suicidal to cut spending. Bush's "Ownership Society," which is what Norquist is writing about here, is an attempt to end-run this problem.]

The best example of this is "privatizing" or "personalizing" Social Security, moving the system from the pay-as-you-go, unfunded, Ponzi scheme to a fully funded, independently held personal savings account system. When fully phased in every American will be required to save, say, 10 percent of their income and accumulate real resources to buy an annuity at retirement that will keep one out of poverty and allow one to keep all savings beyond that minimum to be spent as one wishes. Social Security can be reformed to cost not its present 20 percent of the federal budget but rather remove it from the budget. [Right on. But what's really important about this is not just getting unfunded liabilities out of the budget, but in making people self-reliant, rather than being dependent on big government. Which is why leftists HATE the whole idea, and claim Bush wants to "destroy" SS, even while they have their own retirement nest-eggs invested in the market. Vile hypocrites.]

Medicare can be similarly financed through allowing Americans to save their Medicare tax payments. Health savings accounts can give Medicare and Medicaid programs real competitive pressures to reduce costs without voting for any "cuts." [Ching! Yes. But again, the real benefit is spiritual or psychological. People should be making their own decisions about their and their family's health. Anything that prods them into taking responsibility is good. And your HSA is your money--that tends to concentrate people's attention.]

On education, the only reform worth enacting is real parental school choice. With private schools costing half of what government schools cost, public schools over time will have to become as cost-efficient and effective as private schools. [Yes, correct. But to me it's passing strange to write in this bloodless way, and never mention the dreadful human cost of failing inner-city schools. Or even the dollars-and-cents cost, in increased crime and welfare. Weird.]

Pipe dream? No. We are on track to make all three key reforms a reality in the next decade. The case for Social Security reform is politically strengthened as more and more Americans own shares of stock directly through mutual funds, individual retirement accounts and 401(k)s. When Ronald Reagan was elected, only 17 percent of adults owned stock directly. Today more than 50 percent of households and 2 out of 3 voters in the 2004 election do so. That number grows as all new companies use defined contribution retirement systems rather than defined benefit plans....

Doom for the Left. Ha ha ha. And oh so richly deserved...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:23 AM

May 15, 2006

Lots of bills that were ignored by past presidents...have come due on Dubya’s watch.

Charlene happened to leave The Anchoress open at this post

...But as I put the subject away, I just have to ask all of you people - on every side - who have decided that immigration is one man’s burden, and that every good thing President Bush has done is to be negated because he hasn’t snapped his fingers and done what YOU think is the solution to the immigration problem…what did Clinton do about immigration, what did Bush 41 do? What did St. Reagan do? What did Carter do? What has any president, congressperson or senator done about immigration for the last 30 years, except kick the issue down the road for someone else to deal with?

Reagan, if you remember, was the amnesty president. Clinton was the “borders? What’s borders, everyone is our pal” president.

Lots of bills that were ignored by past presidents, particularly during our “vacation from history” have come due on Dubya’s watch. The whole world seems to be coming due on his watch, and damn him for not handling everything perfectly. What a loser, eh? And it’s easy to kick a guy when he’s down, isn’t it? AJ is getting weary of it, too.....

Too true. She's got a little list. And I can think of other things. My little list of cans-kicked-down-the-road...

New-modeling the Pentagon. The Cold War ended under Bush's father, and the only response from him and Clinton was to cut budgets. No new thinking, no reforms.

In fact, there was no new or clear thinking about the world after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Nothing done about the failure of the "Westphalian System" in the age of terror-supporting rogue states. Bush has redefined sovereignty for the first time since the Thirty Years War.

Our willingness to stand and fight, even if it costs many casualties. Avoiding that by past Presidents, including St Reagan, has now cost us far more casualties. Bush has accepted the painful necessity, paid the overdue bill, and all our future moves will be more effective because of it.

Missile defense.


The issue of whether we would defend Taiwan--fudged since Nixon's time; Bush said clearly we would.

Fetal stem cell research.

The insane exclusion of the most effective organizations from providing social services, just because they were faith-based. Ended by Executive Order.

Reform of the UN (hopeless, but at least someone's trying.)

Education! Paralysis has reigned for decades, and now NCLB is shaking things up big-time. (Dishonest conservitive critics only mention the expense, nothing else.

Health care. Paralysis for decades--now we finally have HSA's. And conservatives don't like the Drug Bill, but they refuse to even take notice of the personal choice and competition included, which has already lowered the costs well below what many expected. (Still huge, I know. But that those things are ignored says to me that the President's conservative critics are not honest.)
this isn't all, but it's time for me to go to work...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:37 AM

October 20, 2005

Step in the right direction...

This is a very good step. The Great Lesson of the Twentieth Century (well, actually, there were several lessons, but this one is not unimportant) is that "defined-benefit" plans of all sorts are time-bombs waiting to explode...
New York Times. WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 - The Bush administration approved a sweeping Medicaid plan for Florida on Wednesday that limits spending for many of the 2.2 million beneficiaries there and gives private health plans new freedom to limit benefits.

The Florida program, likely to be a model for many other states, shifts from the traditional Medicaid "defined benefit" plan to a "defined contribution" plan, under which the state sets a ceiling on spending for each recipient....

...Under the waiver, Florida will establish "a maximum per year benefit limit" for each recipient and fundamentally change its role. The state will largely be a buyer rather than a manager of health care.

In an interview, Alan M. Levine, secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, estimated that no more than 5 percent of Medicaid recipients would hit their annual limits. At that point, Mr. Levine said, "the health plan will still be responsible for providing services to the consumer, but the state's reimbursement would be limited to that amount."

Asked whether the beneficiary would be responsible for paying costs beyond the limit, he said: "That can happen today. There are arbitrary limits and caps embedded in the state Medicaid program, limits on home health services, doctors' visits, prescription drugs."

For each beneficiary, Florida will pay a monthly premium to a private plan. Insurance plans will be allowed to limit "the amount, duration and scope" of services in ways that current law does not permit....(Thanks to Orrin)
I mentioned here that I judge the Bush Administration on somewhat different criteria than many conservatives... "But the metric I'm watching is the Ownership Society (and the war of course)..." This article is an example of what I'm looking for. It's a big step in the right direction. There's a lot of choice involved, and opportunities for people to take personal responsibility. And it gets government out of the business of micro-managing health care...
...The Florida program includes these features, approved Wednesday by the federal government:

¶If a recipient does not choose a private plan, the person will be automatically enrolled in one that the state selects.

¶Medicaid recipients can "opt out" of Medicaid altogether and receive subsidies to help pay the employee's share of the premium for employer-sponsored health insurance. Those beneficiaries will have to pay co-payments and deductibles like other employees in the same plan, even if the charges exceed normal Medicaid limits.

¶The state will deposit money into individual accounts for recipients who enroll in programs to help lose weight, stop smoking and lead healthier lives.

¶Florida and the federal government will establish a pool of money providing up to $1 billion a year to help hospitals and other health care providers who treat large numbers of uninsured people.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Leavitt, Christina Pearson, said the decision on the Florida plan was not influenced by the fact that Governor Bush is the president's brother. Federal officials are prepared to approve similar innovative solutions from other states, Ms. Pearson said.

Medicaid provides health insurance to more than 50 million low-income people. The states and federal government jointly finance it.
Posted by John Weidner at 9:12 AM

October 7, 2005

unfair criticism...

There's a type of criticism of Harriet Miers I'm seeing that is really bugging me. These examples are from Virginia Postrel:

...Sure going to Harvard law probably gets you invited to some nice cocktail parties, but apparently being a part of the Texas good ole' boy and gal system gets you nominated to the Supreme Court...[link]

...Harriet Miers has spent her life in Dallas, and done extremely well in its connections-oriented legal culture--so well that one of her Dallas friends has now nominated her to the Supreme Court... [

Suppose I ran a big organization, and I played golf with Virginia Postrel every week. And out of the blue I gave her an important job. You would be justified in assuming this was cronyism.

BUT, if Virginia worked for me for ten years, held important jobs and was considered a top team member, and I then gave her a big promotion...it would NOT be reasonable (unless you had some specific evidence) to suggest that she only got the job out of friendship, or because she was in the "old-boys and gals network."

How do you run an top-notch organization? You find good people, give them responsibility, promote them, encourage them, etc. You favor them. And you don't promote others just because they had credentials, or seniority, or popularity.

Bush has been very successful, both as Governor and President. Just think back to the "accomplishments" of Clinton and Carter if you don't believe it. Or read the list here. (And, contrary to legend, his oil companies were successful--at least in finding oil. The problem was the oil-price collapse in the mid 80's.) And his ball team was successful. You don't do that by promoting the incompetent, or people who are just friends.

Actually, I think the Miers flap is just an excuse for a lot of conservatives to vent the frustration they feel with Bush. Fact is, he's a bit a of a revolutionary, and he's taking us in directions neither liberals nor conservatives expected to go.

I became a strong Bush supporter because I think that the conservatism I grew up with was at an impasse, and desperately needed a new path. (Liberalism, it is hardly necessary to add, is a failure, in fact a maggot-riven corpse, and needn't be considered by serious people.) To oversimplify, the problem is, government is NOT going to shrink, or become less active. America is very democratic, and we Americans think of government as being ours. Our shiny exciting toy that can do all kinds of neat stuff. No party that wants to put the toy back in the box is going to be in power long.

SO, what's the way out? How can we avoid an ever-increasing dependence on government which will destroy our souls as it has in Europe? Well, how about making the toy into an educational toy? That's what the Ownership Society is all about. Keeping the government programs, but giving people a stake, and responsibility for their stake. Making them owners of their Social Security or their health insurance...with decisions to make, and consequences, and less dependence on decisions by bureaucrats.

But one thing I'm discovering, with some dismay, is that many conservatives can't deal with the idea. Can't even really think about it, or critique it. If you try to discuss it, they just cover their ears and say MedicaireMedicaireMedicaireMedicaire...I've long since got used to the fact that liberals can't discuss new ideas, but it's a bit of a shock to see conservatives react that way.

Anyway, if you think I'm a reflexive Bush supporter, who will put up with anything Karl beams into my brain, you are not quite right. But the metric I'm watching is the Ownership Society (and the war of course). Not whether Janice Rogers Brown is nominated to the Supreme Court. (Though that would be a hoot.)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:47 PM

October 4, 2005

My rebuttal to Hawkins...

John Hawkins asks:

Knowing what we know today, why should conservatives trust George Bush after the terrible judgement he has shown on so many issues?

Why? How about because of the great job he has done on many issues. I'll list some after I deal with Hawkins' specifics...

It goes without saying that Bush is worse than Lyndon Johnson in the big spending department. In his entire time in the White House, he has never even vetoed a single pork laden bill. Then there's the enormous Medicare prescription drug benefit which will create a massive expansion of government and add a trillion dollars to the debt next 15 years.

The drug benefit was probably going to happen no matter what--the political pressure was too strong. But with it we got HSA's, which liberals have been blocking for decades. They will be an important component of the Ownership Society. And we got private-sector competition built in to the drug benefit, which is already causing projected costs to fall.

We also can't forget the anti-First Amendment, McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill which Bush signed into law or Bush's position on illegal immigration which has alienated a large chunk of the party.

I don't like either one. (But without Bush we might have the AUTHOR of McCain-Feingold in the WH!)

Since his election in 2004, Bush has spent months senselessly flogging Social Security when almost everyone acknowledges it isn't going anywhere.

Bush's SS reforms are probably the boldest conservative initiative in modern times. Reagan could only dream of making such a proposal. Just to have it seriously debated is a miracle, and for Hawkins to stand aside and sneer is stupid. And I bet it isn't really dead.

Even on the war in Iraq, an area where many conservatives agree wholeheartedly with his policies, it has been frustrating to watch Bush twiddling his thumbs instead of making a real effort to buck up public support for the war.

Bush is fighting and WINNING the war! For that alone he deserves our trust and support. And the winning, as it becomes apparent, is what is going to bring public support. Not more speeches that the media will ignore anyway.

Now, to top it all off, Bush has picked a minimally qualified crony without solid conservative credentials for the Supreme Court because...why exactly? He knows her, she has been nice to him, and that makes her the best person to fill one of the most crucial jobs in the country?

Rubbish. She's only "unqualified" in the "distinguished legal scholar" sense. But we don't need one of those; the Constitution isn't an inscrutable document. She's smart, she's an originalist and a pro-life Christian, and she's been very successful at a variety of jobs. She will do us proud.

You can try to put a good face on this decision if you like, but the very fact that so many conservatives are ripping into Bush over the Miers nomination -- in and of itself -- means she was a terrible selection even if Miers is really to the right of Clarence Thomas.

Phooey. Popular doesn't mean right.
Let me list a few of the ways Bush has shown splendid judgement and got results...
  • Restored dignity to White House. No more scandals, pardon-selling, or frat-boy antics.
  • 3 major tax cuts--result, economic recovery. All economic indicators trending strongly upward. The rich are paying a higher percentage of taxes than when Bush elected.
  • Faith-based initiatives. Decisively attacked the notion that "separation of church and state" should mean atheist government.
  • NCLB, which is now starting to have real positive effects as public schools are forced to meet standards. Putting Federal weight behind teaching of Phonics. Vouchers for DC, and for Katrina victims.
  • Suspended Davis-Bacon in Katrina area (which is the size of Grt Britain.)
  • forced "merit" hiring and promotion onto a big chunk of the Fed bureaucracy. Made it much easier for private firms to bid for work now done by Civil Service.
  • Many free trade agreements, which get almost no notice, though everyone screamed about the (now ended) Steel Tariffs.
  • Stopped Fed funding for new lines of embryonic stem cells; a strong symbolic victory for the Culture of Life. INCREASED funding for stem cell research.
  • HSA's are now a reality, after being blocked for decades by Dems.
  • Work begun on Missile Defense. Outdated Cold-War Missile Defense treaty ended.
  • Ended the hypocrisy of "supporting" the Kyoto Treaty, which was rejected by the Senate 95-0 during Clinton's time.
  • Rejected ICC.
  • Two of the worst tyrannies in the world overthrown...50 million liberated. No domestic terror attacks since 9/11. Many successful attacks on Al Qaeda and other terror groups, and their funding. Iraq Campaign has utterly transformed WOT, as Islamist groups are forced to react to OUR move, forced to fight us where we have our best forces. Also, Iran now has US forces on both sides.
  • Bush doctrine. Revising the outdated "Treaty of Westphalia" and establishing the principle that national sovereignty is dependent on democratic legitimacy.
  • Willing to FIGHT. Able to stick with the decision when all the weak sisters are whimpering and caving.
  • PSI & Caspian Guard. Libya out of the WMD game. Syria out of Lebanon. Democratic stirrings all across the Islamic world.
  • Supporting tort reform
  • Refused to deal with Arafat.
  • Openly said we will defend Taiwan
  • First president ever to have a VP doing real work in the administration--in fact the Cheney's are a whole amazing family of conservatives working for us.
  • Defeated two ghastly Democrat candidates. Saved us from at least one ghastly First Lady. Saved us from having John McCain as Republican candidate in 2000!! [Thank you, God!]
  • Gave us a smart bookish First Lady we can be proud of.
  • Campaigns not only to get himself re-elected but also to help other Republican candidates.
  • Nominated many excellent appellate judges. (How soon we forget)
Posted by John Weidner at 9:36 AM

September 18, 2005

Good trick, it looks like...

I've been too busy to blog about what seems to me the most interesting debate happening right now. That's the debate among conservatives who like or dislike the President's response to Hurricane Katrina. It's a miniature version of all our recent debates, because the President is missing chances to promote traditional conservative virtues, but is also slanting his remedies towards "Ownership Society" measures. A painful lot of federal spending, but often in ways that give people choice, rather than simply taking care of them. (There is no interesting debate coming from liberals, just the reenactment of tired rituals.)

Here's an example, from the NYT: (Thanks to JustOneMinute)

WASHINGTON, Sept. 16 - The Department of Education announced a plan today to pay 90 percent of the educational costs of students and schools affected by Hurricane Katrina for one year.

But the plan, which seeks $2.6 billion in new hurricane relief spending, came under immediate attack from Democrats and officials of the nation's two largest teachers' unions, who asserted that a major component - payments to families with children in private schools - amounted to a national voucher program.

The department proposed that the bulk of the spending, $1.9 billion, be used to pay states and school districts for absorbing children from the affected areas into their public schools. An additional $227 million would be dedicated to displaced adults with outstanding student loans and to colleges and universities that have taken in students from the storm areas....

The details are not clear, but it rather looks like large numbers of families are going to get school vouchers for a while. That will be, ummm, shall we say, an educational experience? They are going to be dropped into Anytown, USA, with the ability to look around at the local elementary and high schools, and CHOOSE. And with $7,500 per student going to whoever gets CHOSEN, why, a lot of those schools, especially public schools, will look at those students in a new way.

It's not surprising the Senator Kennedy and the vile corrupt teacher's unions are howling. The disaster spending can be a weapon, and Bush is wielding it.

I put a bit more of the NYT article below...

..."The federal government is doing something it has never done before," Education Secretary Margaret Spellings told reporters, referring to a tenfold increase in federal per-student spending. "Our 9 percent investment is going to 90 percent. That's my big news."

The budget request also includes $488 million to compensate families with children in private schools, which critics said represented an effort by the Bush administration to initiate a favorite approach to school choice, the use of vouchers.

Over all, more than 372,000 schoolchildren were displaced by the storm and are now enrolled in schools as far from the Gulf Coast as California and New England. The total includes about 61,000 who attended private schools in Louisiana, 50,000 of them in Roman Catholic schools.

Under the plan, children in public and private schools would be regarded equally for aid purposes, with a spending cap of $7,500 per student.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, the ranking member of the Senate education committee, said in a statement that he applauded President Bush's efforts to serve the educational needs of displaced children. "But I am extremely disappointed that he has proposed providing this relief using such a politically charged approach," Mr. Kennedy added. "This is not the time for a partisan debate on vouchers."...
Posted by John Weidner at 9:01 AM

April 29, 2005

About HSA's...

In a comment on the post about HSA's below, our friend Andrew Cory asked some good questions. I started to write a comment, but now I've just made it a new post...

What I want to know is:
How much are HSA’s costing these people compared to employer-sponsored care?
Are HSA’s giving comparable coverage to employer-sponsored healthcare?

Also if you wouldn’t mind defining HSA’s a bit better in your post-- I have a vague notion of what they are, but no concrete idea...

Good questions. I don't have any answer to the first. But I think HSA's cover almost anything--it's your choice. We've used ours for eyeglasses and teeth-whitening.

As for the definition, an HSA is a Health Savings Account (formerly called Medical Savings Account). It works in conjunction with a health insurance policy that has a high deductible, which is expected to cover the really big health problems.

Imagine having insurance with a $2,000 deductible--you pay everything up to a total of $2,000 a year. AND, you put $2,000 into your HSA. (Or an employer can do either of these) You use that HSA to pay your out-of-pocket medical expenses...(You get a checkbook or a VISA card to pay with)

Your HSA contribution is not taxed, much like an IRA contribution. And it is invested in an interest-bearing account or a mutual fund, and can grow tax-free like an IRA. Unlike insurance, it's not "use it or lose it." It's your money, and you can add more every year. It's an especially good deal for young healthy folk, who can accumulate a big nest egg to use when they are older and creaky-er.

The big advantage is that people have a powerful incentive to spend wisely and to try to stay healthy, which they don't if someone else is paying. Will this make a big difference in overall health care costs? We shall see.....

Also, the situation tends to be non-bureaucratic--your doctor is working to please you, not an HMO, and will often be able to avoid the considerable frustration and overhead of dealing with HMO's and insurance companies. And employers can provide health coverage without the considerable trouble that setting up a "plan" entails.

And, perhaps most important in the long run, with an HSA you become a more autonomous person taking more responsibility for yourself, rather than being a dependent on government or some big organization. (Of course since Democrats have fought and blocked this concept for decades, it's possible that they prefer that people be weak, and dependent upon government or large bureaucratic organizations. But no, I won't think such an ill thought about them.)

Posted by John Weidner at 1:38 PM

April 1, 2005

What's the thinking behind the Ownership Society?

The Ryan Sager article mentioned by Glen Reynolds today is a type of attack that's really starting to bug me.

...This represents a fundamental shift in the direction of the Republican Party and a threat to its traditional alliances. The shift is self-evident. Instead of being the party that tries to rein in entitlement spending, the Republican Party is now the party of the $1.2 trillion Medicare prescription-drug benefit. Instead of being the party that is opposed to even having a federal Department of Education, the Republican Party is now the party of extensive intrusion into local schoolhouses by Washington, D.C....

There's something missing here [I'm partly quoting myself from a recent post about Bill Quick's similar argument. Sorry, time is short]. I don't like the lard either, but in both cases Bush traded (and this was at a time when we didn't control the Senate) spending increases for important components of the Ownership Society. The Medicare bill included HSA's, and NCLB included the parental-choice provisions.

What's the thinking behind the Ownership Society? First, that shrinking the government isn’t going to happen. Not now, not never. Every law, subsidy, tax-break or program creates a constituency that will fight to preserve that bit of big government. It’s a trap that liberals have created for us, and no number of grumbling fiscal conservatives will ever get us out of it.

BUT, there is a way out of the trap. Even though Social Security (to take just one example) is a big-government program, any diversion of dollars into Private Accounts is, effectively, shrinking government. And that creates a trap of the opposite sort, one that will make people want more and more privatization as they start to see their accounts grow. (Or, similarly, more and more choice over which school your kids go to. Or more ability to just choose any medical service you want and pay it yourself without consulting any bureaucracy)

That’s why the Left is fighting private accounts so bitterly. Sager most likely doesn't agree with the strategy, but he ought to be aware of it. Bush has yielded on spending increases to gain long-term benefits of Choice and Ownership. I think Bush's plan is clear enough that Mr Sager has an obligation to try to refute it. I notice that these libertarian types never mention Social Security when they complain about Bush. Nor do they mention the Faith Based Initiatives, that put government spending into the hands of local groups.

I wonder if Mr Sager has an HSA?

* Update: Glenn Renolds writes:

ANOTHER UPDATE: Interesting discussion in Weidner's comment thread, one that would make interesting fodder for any journalist/pundit writing on this topic. Lots of small-l libertarians and fiscal-conservative types feeling left out, and lots of social-conservative types delighting in heaping scorn on them, which strikes me as a poor way to maintain a coalition.

I think he's being a teensy bit unfair to my mostly reasonable commenters. But my own point is that folks like Ryan Sager are missing out on something that's (possibly) really GOOD. For fiscal conservatives. Whose efforts so far (and I've been something of a FC since at least the time of Gerald Ford) have yet to accomplish much of anything. After four decades or so perhaps it's time to be open to a different approach. At least not to ignore it and pretend it doesn't exist. I'd like to see some thoughtful critiques of the whole concept of the Ownership Society. I've yet to see any.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:06 AM

March 27, 2005

In the balance pan...

The estimable Bill Quick has listed 10 reasons why he is feeling disgusted with the Republicans. I thought I'd put in my reactions to them. --This is not a Fisking. I'm with him on some things, not on others. (And, as I'm sure you know, he's a libertarian, and I'm a conservative.)

1. The massive entitlement bill pushed through congress by George W. Bush for prescription drugs.
2. The lard-laden education bill Bush and Ted Kennedy put together and pushed through congress.
In both 1 and 2 there is something Bill is missing (or not interested in). I don't like the lard either, but in both cases Bush traded (and this was at a time when we didn't control the Senate) spending increases for important components of the Ownership Society. The Medicare bill included HSA's, and NCLB included the parental-choice provisions.

What's the thinking behind the Ownership Society? First, that shrinking the government isn’t going to happen. Not now, not never. Every law, subsidy, tax-break or program creates a constituency that will fight to preserve that bit of big government. It’s a trap that liberals have created for us, and no number of grumbling fiscal conservatives will ever get us out of it.

BUT, there is a way out of the trap. Even though Social Security (to take just one example) is a big-government program, any diversion of dollars into Private Accounts is, effectively, shrinking government. And that creates a trap of the opposite sort, one that will make people want more and more privatization as they start to see their accounts grow. That’s why the Left is fighting private accounts so bitterly. Bill most likely doesn't agree with the strategy, but he ought to be aware of it. Bush has yielded on spending increases to gain long-term benefits of Choice and Ownership. (I think this is the right plan, but of course it's still an experiment.)

3. The deadly combination of establishing huge new permanent expenditures while at the same time cutting taxes, thereby guaranteeing massive new debt for future taxpayers. Anybody who has ever run up significant personal credit card bills, and then tried to pay them off out of current income, knows what I mean.
NOT deadly, I would opine. At least if the concurrent goal of economic growth is achieved. That's what Reagan did. He increased the National Debt by 1.3 trillion, and people screamed about how their grandchildren would be enslaved by debt. But the economy grew by 17 trillion at the same time--that's what I call a good investment. And more importantly, it kept on growing vigorously. And now it has grown so large that that 1.3 trillion is no great burden at all. Many of those grandchildren have now been born, but they are not being crushed..

My credit card debt is a burden, but suppose I had taken on debt to buy a business? Or buy a house? Bush's tax cuts are like that, I think, and not like credit-card debt. He left money in the hands of the American people in hopes that it would be used for growth. And I think that's what we are seeing now.

4. Bush's support of renewing the assault weapons bill.
5. Bush's administration has refused to move forward, in fact has impeded, one of the most effective steps he could take to protect American air traffic: Against the wishes of the pilots themselves, he has blocked any realistic effort to let those pilots bear arms in their cockpits.
6. Bush's idiotic refusal to profile suspect groups in airports and elsewhere has led to stupidities like strip-searching wheel-chair bound grannies, and does nothing to increase traveler safety. If anything, it puts all of us at greater risk.
I agree with Mr Quick. But, one point to think about... we are on the offensive, and taking the fight to the terrorists home ground, not here. That's the right way to do it. That outweighs, to me, the idiocies of Homeland Security.

7. For those who mentioned the horrors of the Clinton administration, to wit: the sale of pardons, they should also know that not only did the Bush administration cover up or prevent entirely an investigation of the vandalism and thefts committed by the Clintonistas on their departure from the White House, he within the past month also covered up the results of the investigation of Clinton's pardon fire sale.
Bush did the right thing! Don't fight the pig in his own mud puddle. Especially this pig. Bush is attacking Clintonism more effectively by trying to get us back to a climate where nobody even thinks of doing such slimy things. He's ignoring Clinton, and history will ignore him also.

8. Bush's apparent intentions to ram through congress immigration legislation that will, in effect, post facto legalize millions of illegal aliens, and permit the influx of millions more who will initally be "legal," but will morph into illegals as soon as their time limits are up: all apparently in search of votes and support from the huge businesses that depend on illegal immigrants, at the expense of jobs for legal immigrants and American citizens.
I agree with that.

9. Bush's gross mismanagement of Fallujah in Iraq, that needlessly cost dozens of American lives, and for a time threatened the entire future of the Iraqi experiment in democracy.
Mismanaged, probably yes. But Bill's focusing on the wrong thing. We can't give democracy to the Iraqis, they can only do it themselves. Our real job is to do as little for them as possible, and encourage them to do as much as possible, without having things fall apart. The metric to watch is not whether we are defeating terrorists, but whether Iraqis are, and are learning the art of governing themselves. The "insurgency" has, if you will forgive my cold-bloodedness, been an excellent learning experience for the people of Iraq. the way millions voted under threat of violent death will be, with a bit of luck, their Valley Forge, their story to pass down to their children.

(Also, ALL our wars have been mismanaged. We lost 800 men in a few minutes at Slapton Sands, for nothing. Iwo Jima and Pelelieu were unnecessary objectives, pure waste. Belleau Wood was thought to be "lightly held." By historical standards we are doing extremely well in managing the WOT, and Bush should get some of the credit

10. The recently revealed first instincts of Bush's FEC to impose draconian measures per the CFR bill Bush signed after he said he did not support it. Bush's signing of that measure is, in my opinion, more than sufficient grounds for his impeachment.
CFR is BAD. EVIL. No question in my mind. Bush is wrong to have any doings with it.

11. Of course, the massive Republican hypocrisies of Schiavo.
Schaivo has become an out-of-control flash-point for many issues and bitter controversies. I don't think Republicans could, politically, have not intervened. I'd tend to give everybody a free-pass, and judge Republicans AND Democrats by how they act in less extreme circumstances.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

I'm a believer in Original Sin, and expect ALL human endeavors to be flawed. ALWAYS. So inevitably we have to weigh plusses and minuses, and chose the lesser of evils. I think Bush and his administration have some other plusses that ought to be placed in Bill's balance pan....

A few, in no particular order: Bush has brought dignity back to the White House--personnel don't wear jeans and strew pizza boxes around. He is constantly pushing for freer trade. Rumsfeld's relentless drive to restructure our forces for the 21st Century. Tort Reform. The ever-widening push for democracy. Refusal to deal with Arafat. The sheer genius of the Iraq campaign, which is now paying huge benefits in many ways. Dumped Kyoto, ICC, and ABM. Began serious work on missile defense. First White House in recent decades with almost no leaks. Bush can mingle easily with ordinary Americans, and has won the trust and affection of our troops. And his style and personality torment leftists, leading them to make foolish mistakes. Bush campaigns for the whole party, not just his own reelection.

The Bush Doctrine. Revising the "Treaty of Westphalia" and establishing the principle that national sovereignty is dependent on democratic legitimacy. PSI & Caspian Guard. Libya is out of the WMD game. India is befriended and France sidelined. Declared openly, for the first time, that we would defend Taiwan. Defeated two horrid Democrat candidates. Saved us from at least one truly ghastly First Lady. Saved us from having John McCain as Republican candidate!! [Thank you, God!] Gave us a smart bookish First Lady we can be proud of. Nominating many good judges. Appreciates Scalia and Thomas. Unlike Clinton, Bush picks strong capable subordinates (and according to witnesses I trust, is a superb manager and nobody's puppet.) Thrilling people: Condi. Paul Wolfowitz. Richard Armitage. Elliott Abrams! Dick and Lynne Cheney! (Bush is the first President EVER to have a strong VP doing useful work!!! Not to mention Dick's wife and two daughters, all doing real work in the administration.)

Posted by John Weidner at 1:27 PM

January 18, 2005

Sawicky v Kling

Here's an interesting debate in WSJOnline between bloggers Arnold Kling and Max Sawicky on SS reform. To my mind, Sawicky isn't very persuasive. Too much: "there isn't really a problem," plus too much: "there are other big problems, so how can you justify tackling this one and not them?" (Hmmm. Where have I heard that line before?) Arnold has a good response:

...OK, Max, let's get back to one of the points in your first post. You wrote that "the right-now budget crisis stems from tax cuts, military spending increases, and unsustainable, double-digit growth in Medicare and Medicaid."

The way I would put it is that politicians have three credit cards -- three ways of buying votes today and paying later. This involves making promises that will have to be redeemed by taxes collected in the future. Those three credit cards are the general budget, Social Security and Medicare.

Changing Social Security from a transfer scheme to one with personal accounts serves to take away the politicians' Social Security Credit Card. They no longer would have the authority to promise benefits out of future Social Security taxes...

Of course you can't solve every problem at once. Duh. But when you have several problems of a similar sort, then solving ONE of them can create the momentum and believability that make solving the others possible later. And it makes sense to pick the one that's the most brittle and hit it first. (Reason#2 on my List of Ten Reasons for Invading Iraq. That's where I've heard that line before. "We can't solve ALL the world's problems!")

To generalize: If a Republican tries to solve a problem, then 1. It's not a problem. 2. It's the wrong problem. 3. Our problems are too overwhelming, we dursn't do anything.

I do NOT, by the way, agree that there is a "right-now budget crisis." The deficit is decreasing right now, beause our economy is growing strongly and tax revenues are going up. All of which has, I suspect, some mysterious karmic connection with them tax cuts Max Sawicky doesn't like.

Also, part of our budget problems come from the need to buy necessities from Congress, which should decrease as the Republican majority grows with each election. The President bought HSA's by agreeing to the Prescription Drug benefit. I think it was a smart trade, an increase in the welfare state that was probably going to happen no matter what, balanced by a plan that will start teaching people a better approach to paying for health care. Our only hope is for people to become wiser--this is a democracy, and people are going to get what they want in the end. Of course the same point goes for SS private accounts. More important than the direct economic effect is that they will teach people to think like investors and owners, instead of like helpless clients of the state.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:47 PM

January 13, 2005

We need more Presidents with MBA's

Cool cool cool cool cool...way too cool..........

PRESIDENT BUSH HAS PROPOSED WHAT appears at first glance to be a relatively modest agenda of health care reforms. But if passed by Congress in its entirety, the administration's plan would fundamentally restructure the health care system. It would turn upside down--actually, rightside up--almost all of the current perverse economic incentives that plague the U.S. health care system.

And that's why the president will get nothing but hand-wringing, nay-saying, and eye-rolling from the liberals and elitists.

Make no mistake: The battle over health care reform is a battle of competing visions about markets, individual responsibility, and accountability. Can people make good, value-conscious decisions in the health care marketplace? Or must we all rely on someone--a bureaucrat, politician, academic, or clerk--to make health care decisions for us?

Will President Bush's ownership society extend to patients and the health care system, or will the nannies seek to undermine the president's plan and resume their drive toward government-run health care?

To understand the problems inherent in the U.S. health care system, you must first understand that it is fraught with perverse incentives. Fix the incentives and you will largely fix the system....

Wow. MORE stuff for the second term. And Bush hasn't even been inaugurated yet. This stuff takes my breath away. We were promised reform of the tax code and SS.. And now there are these other "Oh by the way" things, such as this, plus extending NCLB.

Makes me wonder if he's trying to do too much. But I trust the President's political skills. I can imagine the collectivists burning up all their fury and political capital stopping Social Security reform, while these other things sneak under the radar.

(Thanks to JuddBlog)

Posted by John Weidner at 11:26 AM

December 17, 2004

More yelps of pain...

It's beginning to dawn on people that NCLB is a revolution about to happen. Orrin pointed to this article...

The Perfect Law: No Child Left Behind and the Assault on Public Schools, by Gerald W. Bracey

Imagine a law that would transfer hundreds of billions of dollars a year from the public sector to the private sector, reduce the size of government, and wound or kill a large Democratic power base. Impossible, you say. But the law exists. It is Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2001, better known as the No Child Left Behind law (NCLB).

The Bush administration has often been accused of Orwellian doublespeak in naming its programs, and NCLB is a masterpiece of a law to accomplish the opposite of what it apparently intends. While claiming to be the law that-finally!-improves public education, NCLB sets up public schools to fail, setting the stage for private education companies to move in on the $400 billion spent annually on K-12 education ($500 billion according to recent statements by Secretary of Education Rod Paige). The consequent destruction or reduction of public education would shrink government and cripple or eliminate the teachers' unions, nearly five million mostly Democratic voters. It's a law to drool over if you're Karl Rove or Grover Norquist. The Perfect Law, in fact, as in The Perfect Storm..

I don't think Mr Bracey quite understands. I think NCLB is NOT an attempt to destroy public schools for the benefit of the private sector (though some of that will likely happen). It's about CHOICE. Giving choice to parents, so schools have to please parents to keep students. That's something far more interesting...

Bracey points out that the standards set by NCLB will be almost impossible to meet. Hmmm. If they are impossible to meet, I guess there will have to be some compromises down the road. Let me make a prediction. When/if the compromise happens, schools will be allowed to ease the standards a bit where they pinch...but only if parents are also given more choice about which public schools their children go to.

Grover Norquist doesn't quite get it either. He has chortled about how the reforms Republicans are pushing are perfectly calculated to injure key elements of the Democrat coalition. Tort Reform, for instance, would hit those vile animals of the Plaintiffs Bar, (the "Trial Lawyers") who are perhaps the biggest of the Dem contributors. But the Republicans didn't calculate this, they didn't choose the reforms; the reforms chose the Republicans. They called us forth from minority-status obscurity. Such reforms are pressing and urgent precisely because the Democrats can't touch them, and have been ignoring them for decades.

If NCLB does hurt the teachers' unions, that will be a splendid by-product. Those people are evil. They oppose every attempt to fix our schools. And the dirty secret is that they are not teachers—a lot of them aren't. In many public-school systems, only about half the employees are teachers—with the other half mostly a massive clog-up of bureaucrats and administrators. That's why those systems are money-sinks, and why increases in school-funding never seem to fix things. But all those educrats belong to the "teachers" unions, and always claim that any attack on their perks is an "attack on our schools."

And if the by-product of harming the unions is harm to the Democrat party, that will also be an excellent spin-off of NCLB. The Dems have been deeply corrupted by those unions, raking in huge campaign contributions in exchange for damning poor and minority children to blighted lives.

But what Bush is after is choice.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:00 AM

April 25, 2004

Results from NCLB

Some interesting results.. from the No Child Left Behind Act.

Kids who won highly prized transfers out of failing Chicago public schools averaged much better reading and math gains during the first year in their new schools --just as drafters of the federal No Child Left Behind Law envisioned, an exclusive analysis indicates.

And, contrary to some predictions, moving low-scoring kids to better-performing schools didn't seem to slow the progress of students in those higher-achieving schools.

Even kids "left behind'' in struggling schools generally posted better gains in state tests once their peers transferred elsewhere...(Thanks to Judd)

Very pleasing. But I think in a way the study misses what is most important. What would be really interesting would be to learn how the teachers and administrators are reacting and changing.

The study covers students transferring to good schools, as if good and bad schools just happen for no reason. But what we really hope is that the poor schools are going to start improving, like businesses which are losing sales to rivals. I suspect it's happening already, but under the radar...

Posted by John Weidner at 2:58 PM

March 10, 2004

Remember the "Stability" stage?

Remember how, among the many defense-lines Tranzis have been driven from, there was "Saddam (or the Taliban, or the Soviet Union) is bad but at least he provides stability?"

Well, now they are at that stage in their defense of the Public School System! This article, Built To Fail, reminds me of things we were reading in 2002. No Child Left Behind is going to "throw the system into turmoil!" Wasn't the Middle East going to be thrown into turmoil? Wasn't that going to be the End of the World?

...Under the terms of NCLB, which President Bush has called "the cornerstone of my administration," all of the nation's public school students must be tested in reading and math every year in grades three through eight, and at least once in grades ten through twelve. Any school receiving federal Title I money (ostensibly earmarked to improve the performance of disadvantaged students) faces increasingly harsh sanctions if its test scores fail to meet state-defined standards for making adequate yearly progress. After two years of AYP failure, the school must offer students the option of transferring to another public school in the district and bear the cost of transportation. After three years, the school must also offer low-income students tutorial services through a public or private agency approved by the state. After four years, the school district must take corrective actions such as removing personnel or changing the curriculum in the school. And after five years, the district is obliged to blow up, or "restructure," the school by replacing most or all of its staff or by turning over operations, as the U.S. Department of Education puts it, "to either the state or to a private company with a demonstrated record of effectiveness."

With reasonable guidelines and adequate funding, this timetable might have been a prudent course of education reform. But as the first sanctions are just now begininng to kick in, people across the country are belatedly discovering that NCLB is being structured and implemented as a punitive assault on public education, designed to throw the system into turmoil and open the door to privatization....

Gee, do you really really think so? Could that moron Bush have made a catastrophic mistake, trying to prop up the current system, and yet somehow demolishing it? Even with Teddy Kennedy's assistance? How very very stupid of him. Texans, you know...
'Status quo,' you know, that is Latin for 'the mess we're in.'
-- Ronald Reagan
* Update: If the "stability" argument fails to gain traction, I predict we'll be learning that Bush is a "mastermind" (with a cabal of shadowy Jewish education advisors) who is taking unfair advantage of simple honest straightforward Democrats. You read it here first...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:22 AM