Monday, May 24, 2010

Government Spending Credit Report - Inform “We the People”

Let us use Education as an example

"Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom."
John Adams

“Too big to fail” and “government bailouts” are all we have heard about for close to two years. The latest request is by Education Secretary Arne Duncan to ask lawmakers to put aside “politics and ideology” as they consider a request for $23 billion in “emergency” funding for public schools. As a taxpayer this is very disturbing to me and I’m sure to the largest percentage of Americans. When is all this “bailout”, “rob Peter to pay Paul” economics nonsense going to be checked? What a great subject to deal with head on. Everyone would agree that our children’s education is something we need to support. Keeping that in mind, we need to have the right information in order to understand how to support that great goal.

I’m sure you are asking “what is he talking about?” First, let me tell you that I’m close to this subject because my daughter is a public school teacher and the major bread winner for her family. Like most Americans I’m proud that we have a system supported by the government (notice I say supported – important to keep in mind) that helps guarantee each person can have a quality education maintained by all taxpayers’ money. Our teachers need to know that we stand behind everyone of them who performs to goals of our expectations as a whole.

The current system has failed in the sense that we seem unable to support it finically. Why is that? There have been suggestions. Education analyst Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., said this.

“More federal funding is not going to solve states' fiscal problems and could in fact exacerbate those problems, by really preventing states from making the difficult budgetary decisions necessary to reduce costs and effect long-term systemic education reform. The real problem within the public education sector has been more and more non-teaching staff positions. These positions continue to grow and really put a strain on state budgets. Roughly half of those people employed by the public education sector are in non-teaching positions.”

This makes a lot of sense to me and I believe we can help direct monies to government supported programs like education if we apply something every American family has either learned to do or should do. Most successful American families have learned to budget based on their family income. That includes borrowing and using credit wisely to achieve intended realistic goals for our needs then wants: in that order. One great tool we have today to assist the decision making on our budgeting is to learn how to use credit reports. These have much information on them that direct us on when we should and should not use credit, how much we could handle and when we should make a change to keep us financially viable.

I’m sure you have caught on to what I suggest. Why not have credit reports for each of our government agencies and recipient of said agency (aka, each school district) that our representatives could use to gauge fiscal responsibilities. For that matter, with today’s technology, it could be made available for all the people to check and inform our representative of our thoughts and wishes. These could help understand status before criticality and make adjustment long before it is serious (too late at this point, but many families learned the hard also). We want our government and all its representatives (politicians) to operate just as we need to. I know there are others much more capable than me to suggest how this might work and it may be too simple for those who serve the people to comprehend but many a family has succeeded by applying principals around this concept. It’s time the government listened to the people and acted more like us.

"Would it not be better to simplify the system of taxation rather than to spread it over such a variety of subjects and pass through so many new hands."
Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

News, Information and Opinion – What About A Free Press?

“The only security of all is in a free press. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.”
Thomas Jefferson

Not many would argue how our constitution stands on the idea of a free press. Most on both sides of the political arena want to make sure these rights stay free, information flows unreservedly and opinions can be expressed. What I find interesting is how people decide what might be wrong or right. When it comes to news, plain and pure facts and political opinions many will decide the truth based on whether it is liberal or conservative in nature. And both types make the mistake when defining facts from opinion. A friend was certain to make sure I understood this by listing a few places where she received much of her information and didn’t want to hide her understanding of these viewpoints.

“Liberal, yet their facts check out.”

I appreciate the honesty and I have no problems with it. Interesting but I question whether she could equally say of other sources, “conservative, yet their facts check out.” As with many, I think it might be a struggle. So many will predetermine facts reported based on knowing who supplies the information. I might be considered naive but until it is proved otherwise; I tend to believe all the mainstream media outlets, as a rule, try to make sure they report the facts. Now, please understand there is a great difference between the facts of a news report and an opinion based on those facts. This same person has this to say about one news outlet.

“… and wouldn't trust Fox News as far as I could throw my car.”

In her defense, because I find it hard to believe differently, I presume she meant she could not trust the opinions of said news outlet. But then again, the blogs sphere and other news stories (where ever one gets them) seems to indicate people prefer to blur the difference because it is easier to consider truths based on liberal facts or conservative facts. A fact can be proven and if not then it just may be an opinion and that is another issue to discuss. But let’s stick to the facts. It is much like preferring a Chrysler over a Honda. Both are cars but people would argue that point because of such a bias for one or the other. They may choose to believe one is not a car because of who makes it. With that kind of attitude you might see me driving a Honda and tell me to go buy a car. All I’ve really learned is that you don’t like Hondas. The question then becomes, “Why do you prefer a Chrysler over a Honda?”

For current events, I look to all sources of information and evaluate them on their own merits. If it is a fact, which can be tested, then it matters not from whom I garner it from. One thing I do purposely is look for what is reported and notice what is ignored. That says more sometimes than the facts themselves. This means I need to look at all sources to compare who is reporting what. There is the tendency by many reporters to ignore or not report “facts” that make it difficult to support either their liberal or conservative perspectives: and that of course is revealing in itself. So I might not trust as much a news outlet that ignores certain facts or stories because it does not support their idea of what’s news worthy and support their opinions. But guess what, that is news also.

It is not so much who is reporting what, as much as the viewpoint it is filtered through. The problem is many people don’t have a good understanding of what they believe or why they believe it so generally sway from one ideal to another as it feels right. Or their principles are so fanatical that they can not accept any variations or conceive what others might prove as truth. I agree with this statement.

“The truth lies in reading the Constitution, a knowledge of history, and studying the commentaries by the authors, which clearly explains their intentions without the need of conjecturing intellectuals educated with propaganda 250 years later.”

If you can’t consistently point to values, principals and ethics that require integrity to persistently convey ideas, then one might need the support of a particular liberal or conservative bias to sort through.

For instance just yesterday I heard about Attorney General Eric Holder indicating the president was willing to look at changing the Miranda rules to help process terrorists. Many conservatives think this is a good idea but even though I lean towards conservative opinions I strongly disagree with this sudden 180 degree turn around. Why? Without going into the details, this idea goes against what I believe about our American justice system, why we have this law and it would only weaken our liberties as we know them.

Check all avenues of news information. I do listen to Fox, CBS, ABC and I especially am interested in NBC/MSNBC for what they consider news worthy and what they ignore. I compare what the Huffington Post, Washing ton Post, Wall Street Journal, Politico and other major “papers” report. News magazines such as Newsweek, US News, The Weekly Standard and Time all give varying perspectives on current events. But I rely a lot on the Internet also for information that might not make the regular media. It is interesting the people who fight most for “freedom of the press” are often times the same ones who dwell on which is right and wrong regardless whether it is news (facts) or opinion.

“Grant me thirty years of equal division of inheritances and a free press, and I will provide you with a republic.”
Alexis de Tocqueville - 29 July 1805, Paris – 16 April 1859, Cannes