Archive for February, 2010

An image issue that Oxendine can’t resolve in office

Hundreds of companies with thousands of employees doing billions of dollars in business with millions of Georgians, all under the thumb of one man.

For 15 years, that’s been Georgia’s insurance industry in a nutshell. The one man is John Oxendine, state insurance commissioner since 1995.

It’s a more powerful post than many citizens realize, and Oxendine has become one of Georgia’s leading vote-getters. If you believe opinion polls, he’s the front-runner to replace Sonny Perdue as governor.

With that leading status comes scrutiny. And much of the scrutiny on Oxendine centers on whether he’s spent his time in office seeking — some would say demanding — the help of the people he regulates to build his political career and fill his campaign coffers.

Serious allegations are raised in reports by the AJC and other outlets. While any one incident may strike the casual political observer as inside baseball, a theme emerges when you view them as a whole.

First, there are the campaign …

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Health care next steps: Fast track, slow track, no track?

There are endless analyses of yesterday’s health summit, all of which probably add as much to the debate as the meeting itself. To wit: No one is changing his or her mind because of the talk-fest.

(One common reaction — see an example here from Slate, not exactly a hub for right-wingism — that I do find interesting is the idea that Obama and the GOP delegation both came out looking better than the congressional Democrats. That strikes me as either an acknowledgment that Republicans exceeded expectations, or that Democrats may have passed a bill a long time ago if they had better leaders in Congress; feel free to discuss below.)

If minds weren’t changed, though, I have come across one particularly interesting suggestion for a next step forward. Here’s Arnold Kling of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, writing at National Review Online:

I thought that President Obama did well to convey a willingness to negotiate. If I were the Republicans, I would move off the “scrap the …

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Obama won’t give up his lost health crusade

Barack Obama as Indiana Jones? Allow me to explain.

At the end of the trilogy starring Harrison Ford (let’s pretend moviegoers were never subjected to “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”), the swashbuckling archaeologist discovers the holy grail of holy grails: the actual cup of Christ.

But things go badly wrong and Jones soon finds himself suspended over a bottomless chasm, with one arm reaching desperately for the grail. The other is being held tenuously by his father, who wisely counsels him: “Let it go.”

If only the elder Jones could pay a visit to the White House.

Today is the big “bipartisan” health care meeting at which President Obama has agreed to hear Republicans’ ideas if they will just sign on to his latest health proposal, which is all of three days old and has yet to be scrutinized by the usual independent agents.

That’s the upshot of the meeting, anyway. Ever since Obama smoked a disorganized House Republican caucus at their televised debate in Baltimore last month, …

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This week’s sign of the non-apocalypse (Vol. 1, No. 3)

National governments are getting the message that the United Nations’ besieged climate panel (see one recent summary here) is not a group to stay snuggled up to.

First, from Pajamas Media:

During the review of the Environmental Protection Agency budget in [Tuesday's] Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, both Senator Barbara Boxer — the chair of the committee — and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson distanced themselves from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4).

Boxer and Jackson’s statements, in addition to being a striking change in policy, are problematic because U.S. climate science is very closely tied to the IPCC reports…

(snip)

Both Boxer and Jackson appeared to be trying to distance the EPA from the IPCC report. Boxer said:

‘In my opening statement, I didn’t quote one international scientist or IPCC report. … We are quoting the American scientific community here.’

When [Sen. James] Inhofe directly asked …

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Wyden-Gregg tax reform: A small step in the right direction

It’s not a flat tax, but my initial impression of the tax reform plan introduced by Sens. Judd Gregg (R., N.H.) and Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) is that it’s a small step in the right direction.

Eliminating the alternative minimum tax is a winner. What’s more, income tax brackets would become flatter: Still not a single rate, but with just three rates (15 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent) the income tax would be as flat as it’s ever been. Some exemptions would remain — and my general preference is to have as broad and loophole-free a tax code, with the lowest rates, as possible — but thousands of exemptions would be eliminated.

Perhaps most important, the corporate tax rate would be slashed to 24 percent from 35 percent, bringing the U.S. more in line with the rest of the industrialized world. Currently, our corporate rate is a high-tax outlier compared with the vast majority of our competitors in Europe and the Pacific Rim. We would remain on the high side, but this would be a …

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How government ‘creates’ jobs

Worth a thousand words, as they say:

CrowdingOut

(H/t: Cafe Hayek)

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How convenient: New ObamaCare plan too vague to score

President Obama plans to hold a “bipartisan” health-care summit Thursday, and today the White House rolled out a new health proposal for the occasion. The administration says the compromise between the House and Senate bills will cost $950 billion over 10 years but will somehow reduce the deficit by $100 billion over that time and by $1 trillion in its second decade.

That’s right: a $1 trillion deficit reduction over 10 years, a 10-fold increase from the first 10 years.

Want to know what the scorers at the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office think? Too bad — the White House delivered its plan so late, and with so few specifics, that CBO says it won’t be able to evaluate the new scheme by Thursday.

Aw, shucks. What an unfortunate coincidence! And if you believe that, I’ve got a no-deductible, no-premium, no-co-pay insurance plan I’d like to sell you.

The White House cooked up this summit as a last chance to take back the political high ground from Republicans on health …

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The pensions problem extends beyond Atlanta (Updated)

Kasim Reed has been quite active since taking office as Atlanta’s mayor last month, and one of the most important task forces he put in place — on the city’s exploding pension costs — releases its first public report today. There’s every indication that Reed understands this knot has to be untangled before the city can act substantially on any other area.

The panel will report on the current state of the city’s pension plans and will outline some possible paths forward. It will not, however, make recommendations about those possible paths forward. That’s a political question that has to be decided by Reed and the City Council.

That debate will certainly be a raucous one, with taxpayers pushing for reducing the city’s commitments while employees try to keep as much of what they have as possible. The taxpayers are right, because the city simply can’t keep the promises it made to employees when it increased benefits in 2001 and 2005.

Atlanta is far from the only city having this …

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Giving students choices is no laughing matter

Have you heard the one about the priest, the rabbi and the Baptist minister who went to a political rally? This one’s no joke.

To understand what was special about Thursday’s school-choice rally at the state Capitol, you didn’t have to hear what was said or feel the freezing temperatures which more than 100 attendees braved.

You had to look at the crowd, which didn’t look at all like what the machinery of the education status quo would have you believe. It was a crowd that was multiracial, multi-ethnic and multi-faith.

The minorities present were not token representatives. They were a reflection of the fact that school choice — including charter schools and vouchers — is an issue that concerns all Georgians, not just a privileged few.

So much so that, in imploring the crowd to remain persistent, Rich Thompson, a Southwest Atlanta parent and school-choice advocate, chose to cite a dictum from the abolitionist Frederick Douglass: “Power concedes nothing without a demand.”

So …

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Test pressure didn’t create the CRCT cheating scandal

The numbers were good — too good. They kept rising, beggaring belief. The people who should have questioned them, should have inquired as to how those producing the numbers kept moving from strength to strength, instead got caught up in celebrating them, even taking credit for them.

The numbers were good — too good to be true.

Enron? Major League Baseball?

Atlanta Public Schools?

Let’s stipulate that the state’s review of dodgy CRCT results, prompted by an earlier AJC investigative series, does not on its own explain exactly what happened in Atlanta’s schools during last year’s standardized tests. The state’s analysis of erasure marks on student test sheets does not reveal who did, or knew, or ignored what. For that reason, Gov. Sonny Perdue and his staff have been wisely patient in waiting for the rest of the facts to come to light.

But let’s also acknowledge that cheating occurred. Barring some anti-APS conspiracy by the state, no innocent explanation suffices for a system …

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