Saturday, December 3, 2016

If you think it ain't fixed, break it with a voucher.

The advocates of privatizing everything, from education to medicare  are in love with the voucher solution. This turns the old saying , "if it ain't broke, don't fix it " on its head to "  If you think it ain’t fixed ,don’t fix it; instead  break it " with a voucher and the GOP is going voucher crazy. Vouchers are a sneaky way to privatize popular taxpayer funded programs like Medicare and public education.

The Medicare system "ain't broke", but the GOP wants to "fix" it anyway by privatizing it with vouchers which the elderly would use to pay private insurers instead. Voucherizing Medicare makes a successful low overhead cost system risky and more complicated for seniors, and would feed the profit margins of insurance companies. Imagine you are given vouchers subsidized with taxpayer money  with the choice to purchase Medicare insurance on the open market. That is what GOP House members want you to do. Right now polls show seniors  do not think it is broken and want it to continue as is. There is good reason that candidate Donald Trump pledged not to tinker with this program. He should be held to his promise.Trump should tell Congress in advance he will veto any voucher plan.

Vouchers needlessly complicate the lives of seniors. It would mean elderly consumers would have to be extremely  sharp to read the small print of the benefits to make good choices and sign up annually like any other health insurance.  Would the vouchers keep up with the unbridled increase in insurance costs and premiums offered by for-profit insurers or is this a ruse to cut benefits for seniors for years?  It is an unnecessary gamble.

Concerns are legitimate regarding future financial soundness of Medicare. That killing Obamacare would save it is an outright GOP fib. Obamacare has actually extended its life by twelve years. There are better ways to extend Medicare's life than with vouchers that privatize it. One is simply to raise the age  of eligibility to get Medicare which was proposed by the Simpson-Bowles Debt Reduction Commission.  The other is to raise taxes on benefits even more for consumers with  higher income levels or to raise the pay-in to the system by future users. A cost reduction measure extending its life  is to require competitive bidding on prescription  drugs approved in a plan, also proposed by Donald Trump.

The education voucher  for private schools is a Trojan horse. For those who depend on public education, per pupil of public funding would be diverted from them. That "fix" could be a more “broken” public education. Vouchers are no "fix" for our education system, either .  If just school choice is the rationale  for vouchers, publicly funded charter schools can and have already filled that need. Evidence is those using vouchers for private education had lower  or mixed test scores than students in public schools. Many states spend less per pupil than what is the cost of tuition at a private school.   It is an upper class subsidy plan if  the cost of private schools’ tuition is much higher than the per pupil public school system, requiring parents to cough up the difference between the voucher and the private school's tuition. That would be of no benefit for the cash strapped middle class. 

The Constitution and court decisions forbid vouchers  to be used for providing religious based instruction. The nominee for Education Secretary, billionaire Betsy DeVos, is an advocate for using taxpayer money for religious based schools. She has no education backgound other than being a parent and advocate for religious based education. No child of hers ever attended public schools.

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 "The private elementary school average is $8,522 per year and the private high school averageis $12,953."

Oct 23, 2016 - ... Affordable Care Act, Hillary Clinton correctly points out the Obamacare law hasextended the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund until 2028.

Jul 18, 2016 - Medicare has grown somewhat stronger financially in both the short ... these parts ofMedicare do not face insolvency and cannot run short of ... 14, 2016 - Paul Ryan's false claim that 'because of Obamacare, Medicare is ... The net result was that the “insolvency” date was extended by 12 years..

Sunday, November 27, 2016

School Voucher Plans: Who benefits more: the students or the holders of ideological beliefs?

Betsy DeVos has been tapped as Donald Trump's Education Secretary. She is an  ardent supporter of charter schools and vouchers for private education but she  is  reproted to be also in favor of testing which may or may not mean Common Core (which Donald Trump wants to trash).. She is getting hit from both the left and the right.  

 Ideology should not be the basis of providing education that is good for our children. .The goal of some is to get religious based education paid for by taxpayer money.  They have  had to buck numerous court decisions that upheld the Constitution's separation of church and state.  However, there are two questions involved:  One is the Constitutionality of a voucher program that can fund religious based education . The other is it good public policy that improves  educational outcome for all.   Will education teach kids to read, write, at least calculate using math, have critical thinking, understand history, its lessons and, yes civics?

 From the public policy persepective, will students' education benefit?  We do have some experience with vouchers and the results are contrary to expectations of many. advocates of vouchers.  From the public policy perspective, Students using vouchers to attend private schools in Ohio performed significantly worse on state tests than their peers who remained in public schools, according to a new study. In Wisconsin, a study  finds little or no indication that pupils in those Milwaukee public schools that have more school choice possibilities nearby made significantly greater year-to-year gains in primary school tests than pupils in other Milwaukee public schools. (

So what is wrong about those who support  using taxpayer money vouchers  in support of "religious education" .  What is at issue is the separation of church and state in the Constitution and if funding religious schools violates that. provision.There was an attempt in a Denver suburbs, Douglas County , to allow vouchers to be used  for relgious based schools.   The effort failed in a federal court.

On the other hand, the Supreme Court  in a 5 to 4 split ruiled in favor of a voucher  program in Ohio if it went to parents, not to schools, had a secular purpose,  and did not fund religious education.  The Private Choice Test developed by the Court, for a voucher program to be constitutional was that  it must meet all of the following criteria:

  • the program must have a valid secular purpose
  • aid must go to parents and not to the schools
  • a broad class of beneficiaries must be covered
  • the program must be neutral with respect to religion
  • there must be adequate nonreligious options
However, the results have had mixed performance on student tests. From the public policy veiwpoint, it has not been a great success.

The conclusion from these experiences  is that vouchers do not benefit the students so much as it satisfies  ideological and political beliefs that choice that includes private schools  is the most important  criteria or that anything private is better than that which is  government funded.. .

Posted on Facebook in the comment section of the posing of this was a very well expressed comment: by Maggie Orth.
"The problem with vouchers is that they create a baseline cost for education. Those who can only afford the vouchers will get crap. Those who can supplement will get more. Moreover, vouchers assume that working parents have the resources and time to weed through a complex marketplace-- just as medicare vouchers do with seniors. I shudder to think of my poor parents who are struggling with my father's alzheimer's trying to sort through "market based medicare options." The only thing education vouchers guarantee is a parent's right to indoctrinate their children and deny them access to ideas the parents don't like. There are facts in the world- like geology and science. If people think the US can be a world class stable democracy and economy when people can teach their children whatever facts they want, they are very wrong."

The private elementary school average is $8,522 per year and the private high school averageis $12,953.   ..

Friday, November 25, 2016

Gen. Michael T Flynn's anti Muslim rhetoric. He needs to tone it down.

Michael Flynn, Donald Trump's national security advisor, has a tendency to make comments that warm the cockles of those who have a bad case of Muslimphobia.  He has called the religion of Islam a "cancer" .  Lately  taken out of context to some extent he  has called Islam not a religion but a political system. (He was referring to "radical Islam"  in context but often the captions of his remarks left out that qualifying  nuance).  What  these not carefully  parsed words has done is to cause comments in Facebook postings I have seen  that reveal how widespread is anti-Islamic  bigotry in the United States.

Flynn is already under attack for his hard line approach to Islam and Donald Trump's appointment to his White House in a very sensitive position.  Let us hope his future pronouncements are more sensitively  parsed and the advice he gives Pres. Elect Trump behind the scenes is more reflective of  the complexities of the Muslim world.  If he does not, he may actually harm US national security and create more problems with terrorism than we have now.

What I learned  from  on line media discussions is there are those who do believe that the religion of Islam is not a religion but  a political system. To them it justifies their  blanket indictment of Muslims and Islam in general .They seized on Flynn's words, leaving out any qualifying statements that he was referring to "radical Islam" (referring to ISIS or other of such ilk)  which is even held in contempt  by the overwhelming number of  world's Muslims as being heretical    Here is the reality:  It is not the religion that is at fault; it is  some of the practitioners who use the religion for their own purposes. . What those who took his remarks as validating their indictment of  all Muslims  are doing  is creating a strategic military  problem, too. It will turn off the very allies who consider ISIS and its kind as as heretics. Those Muslims who do not follow ISIS are the very ones we need to fight ISIS,and we might find ourselves going it alone if the Trump administration continues to condone such anti-Islamic bigotry.

What is true is that there are those who use religion to get and keep power and that is a  fact of life in our world's history.  It has happened with some frequency.  It can be countered. Sometimes greater understanding can come from personal contacts or becoming more knowledgeable about the religion. How many Muslims do you know anyway or ever met or talked with them? How much of the theology of Islam or its origins (based on the same Abrahamic beliefs of Christianity and Judaism) do you know?To say Islam is not a religion is sheer ignorance and is disrespectful   of  the  over 1.5 billion Muslims in the world who practice it peacefully.

What is particularly  disturbing is the effect of anti Muslim bigotry on  our own security.  There are those who are already here who have been  radicalized on line.  So far, to intercept theim from carrying out Jihad in the US or abroad,  law enforcement has relied on cooperation with the Muslim community and their good will to intercept them before they act.  Now, what I hear is fear in that community, that the Trump administration is hostile and suspicious of all followers of Islam in the US.  Whether good will and cooperation in the future will continue is not helped by the bigoted comments found on line or expressed openly. Those bigoted remarks can only work to increase the alienation of members  of our own  Muslim community.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Defining racism and bigotry

Sometimes in the battle of words and name calling, we throw around terms that sound awful but we fail to look at the meaning:  There are two hurled often:  One is racism and the other is bigotry.  I ran to Websters' dictionary for defintion:
"Racism:1.  a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race2a :  a doctrine or political program based on the assumption of racism and designed to execute its principlesb :  a political or social system founded on racism"
  1. By that definition the KKK or Neo Nazi groups fit that definition to a tee. Inclusion and belief that all men are created equal are the opposite terms.
Bigotry is a bit more  subtle:

"Full Definition of bigot. : a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance."How we apply the definition and to whom are the stuff of which political discourse is made.  The key in that  definition  of bigotry is "intolerantly" as does the following clause. You may have strong views you hold dearly, but the difference is how you treat or speak to others, especially a racial or ethnic group.Example of Breitbart bigotry in the their own words: Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy” 
• “Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew” 
• “World Health Organization Report: Trannies 49 Xs Higher HIV Rate
• “Roger Stone: Huma Abedin ‘Most Likely a Saudi Spy’ With ‘Deep, Inarguable Connections’ to ‘Global Terrorist Entity’” 
• “Lesbian Bridezillas Bully Bridal Shop Owner Over Religious Beliefs” 
• “The Solution to Online ‘Harassment’ Is Simple: Women Should Log Off”

Is Steve Bannon, formerly with Breitbart and now closest policy advisor to Donald Trump, himslef a bigot?  A case could be made either way. He admits to being a nationalist, but a white nationalist? Probably not, though he has provided the media forum for some of those holding such views to be an advocate. 

What  I am seeing  on Facebook regarding Muslims, are many postings painting their religion and their followers  as all being to be feared as a threat, is sheer bigotry since the remarks "treat the members of their group" with hatred and intolerance.  One of the tools used by those who are intolerant of Muslims is to gin up fear that their 1% of  the United States  population will impose Sharia law on us. That has been an ongoing theme in anti-Muslim bigotry since 2011.  Our forefathers had experienced "divine right of Kings' and wisely wrote an amendment to the Constitution that prohibits setting up a state religion. It is found in the First Amendment. "Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,....".