State pension secrecy needs light

Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:

● Every now and then, achievements in science, medicine and technology are breath-taking. Two in the past week come to mind. The first was a stupendous achievement at Emory University Hospital where a team of surgeons led by Dr. Linda Cendales performed a 19-hour surgery to attach a hand to 21-year-old Linda Lu. As a 1-year-old, Lu lost her hand to complications related to Kawasaki disease. It’s a first for Emory, though the surgery was first performed by a team that included Cendales in 1999 in St. Louis. And this week, even without a functioning “black box” flight recorder, searchers operating undersea robots found the wreckage of Air France’s Rio-to-Paris flight resting 2.4 miles below the surface of the Atlantic — and can identify some of the bodies before they are recovered. Even with a daily diet of economic gloom and incomprehensible brutality and murder, some news is worth waking up to.

● I may become a liberal again one day, as I was in the ’60s, when the left starts coming up with ideas that address social problems as beneficially as conservatives like U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who heads the House Budget Committee, have. The mistake of liberals is to pretend that the nature of poverty and the values of the impoverished are unchanged by 50 years of public spending, Hence, their solutions: Spend more, require less initiative and personal responsibility. Ryan’s proposal, which would cut $6.2 trillion from spending over the next 10 years, “puts the nation on a path to actually pay off our national debt,” he writes in The Wall Street Journal. He tackles Medicaid and Medicare responsibly and constructively, empowering states and individuals. Such a breath of fresh air in American politics.

● Headlines are really difficult. Few words, little space. A headline over the story about the U.S. Supreme Court upholding an Arizona law that allows individuals a tax credit of up to $500 for contributions to tuition scholarship organizations declares “Private schools get break.” Georgia has a similar law. My headline would say “Parents, givers get break.” The first beneficiaries are not private schools, but parents whose children are trapped in a nonperforming public school. Great decision for parents. And encouragement for reformers and would-be ObamaCare repealers: Patience and persistence.

● Republicans under the Gold Dome need not own the good ol’ boy culture they inherited. They can change it. And should. Case in point: Taxpayers put $1.3 billion per year into state retirement systems but are prohibited from knowing who is exploiting the system for unwarranted benefits — the politicians and their kinfolks and the politically connected in particular. That prohibition is responsible, in part, for keeping the system open to political abuse. Republican legislators and state Attorney General Sam Olens need to aggressively push full transparency so taxpayers know which politicians and which friends and kinfolks are ripping us off. Fix it or you own it.

● A surprising discovery after Clayton County decided it couldn’t afford a low-ridership bus system that was costing the county $8 million — half of its projected $16 million deficit. The discovery is that people either moved closer to their jobs or to existing bus lines or formed car pools. The day surely will come when rational discussions direct limited tax revenues to the greatest need. If the solution can be that people move from one apartment complex to another, or go to nearby clinics in the case of Grady Memorial Hospital’s decision to close two neighborhood clinics, we can both serve the needy and do it rationally and affordably.

68 comments Add your comment

catlady

April 10th, 2011
3:47 pm

Anyone should be able to get a voucher for what they pay in school taxes, less $500 for basic infrastructure, to be used to educate their child(ren). So, if your school property taxes are 1200$ you get the princely sum of $700 to pay for the education of one, two, or however many kids you have. What you DON”T get is anyone else’s money in your voucher.

In my case, I pay less than $500 in school taxes, so I would get $0 to spend on educating my 3 kids. Gee, that gob’mint school doesn’t seem so bad now!

Michael H. Smith

April 10th, 2011
5:03 pm

Anyone should be able to get a voucher for what they pay in school taxes, less $500 for basic infrastructure,

Nope! That is unconstitutional under the equal protection clause. Equal portion vouchers of taxpayer funds to every school age child K-12. Most public school buildings have been paid for already. They start off with that infrastructure advantage and many more in addition.

Michael H. Smith

April 10th, 2011
5:28 pm

When is the “Social Justice” of “Equal Results” unjust in eyes of the Big GUB’MINT loving Socialist Liberals?

Whenever private sector capitalism is an “Equal Recipient” thereof !

Mooowhaaaaaaaa, ha, ha… that old Capitalism, those old Capitalists :cry:

WHY? RNC is Y

April 11th, 2011
7:30 am

retardo-rama

Michael H. Smith

April 11th, 2011
8:52 pm

Globally the U.S. ranks 3rd in education spending per student, the U.S. ranks 14th in the education results achieved among the other nations of the world.

Now comrade dear leader obumer and socialist liberal DNC Company want to spend-invest more money in education?

Not only do these foolish people want to spend more money, they want to spend it for an inferior service and product from a proven lousy failed GUB’MENT education system and they want to continue buying more of these same inferior services and products “EXCLUSIVELY” from the same lousy failed GUB’MENT education system, expecting and trying to convince the rest of us, that they will get a better outcome.

Retarded is, as retarded does; and anybody that would support increasingly paying more for inferior services and products from a proven lousy failed system is beyond the pale of defining an insane idiot: They are absolutely brain dead stupid.

jm

April 12th, 2011
1:05 pm

Glenn

April 12th, 2011
5:59 pm

A couple ideas from the reform debates on health care and social security might–just might–be helpful in these kinds of arguments about how best to structure and fund the teaching of kids. The first is associated with liberals, the other with conservatives. I’m thinking of the liberal notion of a “public option” in health policy and the conservative pursuit of “portability” in Social Security and pension benefits.

Whatever happens to “ObamaCare”, meanwhile some of the states have implemented a public option, not an “entitlement” but an opt-in for those whose care is not, for whatever reason, covered through private sector providers. Discussions of a public options often speak of “safety nets”, of a “basic level of care”, of “essential” care. Compared to the mature and fertile health care debate the education version is just entering the first trimester of a teen pregnancy, but each of these ideas already has a paternity claim in education policy. What would a safety net look like in public education? What would be “basic” service delivery in that sphere, what is “essential”? Most importantly, what if public education services were, like health services, but one option among many? How might that be operationalized, practically, legally, fiscally?

It seems fair to say that whereas in health care we find a spectrum of private options with yet only a few public ones, in schooling we have the reverse situation. Might the two service areas come to mirror one another ultimately in a similar mix of options both public and private? Liberals in both policy areas are working energetically to increase and improve alternatives within the public sector, but they are not so catholic as to extend their liberality to the increase and improvement of choice in the private realm.

That’s where conservatives, including classical liberals of the old school, come in. In in the interest of reforming health care coverage, Social Security and other pension benefits, conservatives promote “portability”, the means of retaining coverage or benefits when a worker changes jobs within one level of government (federal, state, local), or between levels of government, or between the public and private sectors. (Some of this is codified in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act [HIPAA], of 1996). But look at the potential implications for education!

In health hawks and Sosh-scurty skinflints want coverage and benefits attached to the employee and not the employer; similarly, our Michael H. Smith and others want school moneys attached the the school’s client (not to be confused with NEA) and not to the school. They both explore this idea of the portability of services at the juncture–in the teeth of the competition between–the public, governmental sector and the private, deeply personal one. (That’s why I quipped to Ragnar that there’s “a new civil war” lying in his definitional point about the statutory meaning of the term “public”–because those were the irrational passions of 1850-61: Who owes what to whom?)

The federalists among us, those who want a closer reading of the constitutional delineation of governmental powers, will remember that the national government has no more bid’ness legislating health services than it has in pedagogical affairs (unless the states insist upon violating an individual’s constitutional protections). Still, I guess I’m what you’d call an educational pluralist. Education is the sport, choose your team. More the better, in fact. Better ‘n’ better, each of them, so much the better. So in pedagogy I think we can have a Public League and a Private League; I do think that we can fund them commonly to an extent; That we can do all this for less, and do it better.

First, though, we’d have to agree upon the rules, futzing with all attorneys excepting those here, fixing all jurists and fixing all politicians.

Glenn

April 12th, 2011
6:13 pm

I’d meant to recommend futzing with the esquires, FOXING the jurists and, as ever, fixing the pols until this educational debate takes in every engaged voter at least as much as the health care debate now does.

Glenn

April 13th, 2011
5:30 pm

@jm,

We’re gonna go see that film just to learn how anyone could think to dramatize that cumbersome book. Know what I mean? I’ve noticed for decades now that booksellers place that volume in shelves covering variously Fiction, Politics, Philosophy, Economics, and on and on.Hollywood sucks at translating to screen lit-as-lit. Last year some creative independents managed to cinematize poetry in the groundbreaking movie “Howl”, but I’d think that the scripting of Rand’s most ponderous book should be quite an uphill battle for the film people. Did they cop out, or have they found a new approach? If the latter, then the World’s our oyster. It might even be possible to make a popular film dramatizing the Declaration of the Pursuit of Happy Filmgoing.

Gonzo

April 13th, 2011
6:33 pm

You have to hand it to the Feds. Today the President saved nine billion dollars by not sending NASA to Venus. Venus had not especially interested anyone, least of all the planners at NASA, but just by rejecting Venutian spending the famously articulate president managed in a stroke to save taxpayers an estimated nine billion dollars. “We are not going where we cannot go,” stated acting White House spokesperson Wiley Gibber,” adding that the President thereby has added billions toward reduction of what is perceived as a multiplying deficit problem.

In a pre-campaign swing today through Dubuque, the President was noticeably confident. Asked about the proposed elimination of the Venus Program, he said only, “We’ll go later. Meanwhile, look at the money I saved!”

Ripshot

April 13th, 2011
6:36 pm

Q: Are we not going to Paris today?

A: No, today is the day we are not going to Brussels.

Glenn

April 13th, 2011
9:06 pm

With th the hope of change we will win the future!

carlosgvv

April 14th, 2011
8:36 am

The recent hand surgery at Emory certainly is a tremendous medical achivement. Unfortunately, this kind of medical treatment comes at a very high dollar cost. This is one of the main problems with health care insurance today. Who should be covered for all of these incredibly expensive procedures and who should pay for it? To make matters worse, it often is a question of who gets to live and who gets to die.

Glenn

April 14th, 2011
8:48 am

Good question. I should think that the people of the State and nation would wish to pool their resources in cases such as this one, but in other days we’d have underwritten such measures with nickel donations from schoolchildren, whereas now it’s wired by force of law. Kinda takes the humanity out of the thing. As Twain once quipped, “Compulsory education. [Hmn] that seems better than the other thing”. Point is, What is lost in the compulsion, the mandate?

Glenn

April 14th, 2011
8:54 am

Maybe this story from Emory illustrates a part of what’s best in our weird health care system. Maybe the opposite. I dunno. What do you think?

Glenn

April 14th, 2011
9:45 am

Oh. And @Michael H. Smith

It seems that you decry the 30-year move to federalize American education. I join you in opposing that move. A couple days ago I learned that under President Obama’s most recent proposals would have people in my elderly mother’s tax bracket paying $8,000/year to fund federal encroachments in education whilst I, in the next lower bracket, should pay a tenth as much and the rest, almost nothing. It seems clear to me that the President is a rank power maniac who regards education mainly as an opportunity for redistribution, if not retribution.

carlosgvv

April 14th, 2011
11:53 am

Glenn

Our health care system and the increasing number of wonders it brings is part of a brave new world. Money, in many cases, already decides who lives and dies. While this is appalling, when you consider the fantastic cost of some of these treatments it becomes clear that there will never be enough money to treat everyone. I guess the real question is how will the “have nots” respond to this in the future. Will they just accept it or riot?

Glenn

April 14th, 2011
1:46 pm

Very clear, carlosgvv. Helps me make sense of health policy, which is not my field. My only suggestion, as a lay person, is that the inevitable triage would be more honest and humane in proximity of the payer to the patient, if you see what I mean. While we don’t live in Capraland, still I don’t think we want the Canadian national government deciding who does or does not get her hand reattached. You remind me, however, of the sensitivity of these matters, so I should shut up.