The president’s second inaugural address was what Charles Krauthammer and Charles R. Kessler, respectively, called an “ode to big government” and a “[reinterpretation of] American principles.” It was, in many ways, unapologetic and decidedly to the left of any inaugural oration delivered in modern American history -- and a far cry from the Lincolnian ideal. Ironically, however, while the American public evidently endorsed the status quo (i.e., trillion dollar plus-deficits, more bureaucracy, and bigger government) by re-electing the president, more Americans than ever believe that the federal government threatens their “rights and freedoms”:
As Barack Obama begins his second term in office, trust in the federal government remains mired near a historic low, while frustration with government remains high. And for the first time, a majority of the public says that the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms.
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Jan. 9-13 among 1,502 adults, finds that 53% think that the federal government threatens their own personal rights and freedoms while 43% disagree.
In March 2010, opinions were divided over whether the government represented a threat to personal freedom; 47% said it did while 50% disagreed. In surveys between 1995 and 2003, majorities rejected the idea that the government threatened people’s rights and freedoms.
The growing view that the federal government threatens personal rights and freedoms has been led by conservative Republicans. Currently 76% of conservative Republicans say that the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms and 54% describe the government as a “major” threat. Three years ago, 62% of conservative Republicans said the government was a threat to their freedom; 47% said it was a major threat.
Here’s the accompanying graph which shows just how much public opinion has changed over the last decade:
If a slim majority of Americans generally believe that the federal government threatens their liberty and constitutional freedoms, why on earth did they re-elect a guy who drastically expanded it? My hunch is that people are leery of big government generally, but when Republicans talk specifically about cutting government programs -- such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps -- Americans turn the other cheek and vote for Democrats. To make matters worse, during the last election cycle the GOP was not seen as the party of opportunity; it was seen (however unfairly) as the party of “millionaires and billionaires” and “one-percenters,” and thus prevented Mitt Romney from connecting with the middle and working classes.
And yet Pew’s latest finding shows rather convincingly that most Americans fear the expansive overreach of Washington bureaucrats -- as they should. But now it’s up to conservative Republicans to harness that message by reaching out to every American and explaining why their policies will lead to a smaller, less intrusive federal government -- one that (a) protects their freedoms and individual rights and (b) keeps America’s safety net programs solvent for the next generation.
This is a task easier said than done, of course, but one that is absolutely necessary if we want to end the latest “era of big government” and bring constitutional conservatism back into the mainstream.
We learned yesterday that the economy shrunk last quarter for the first time since the 2008 recession ended, due in large part to cuts to the military. Now, less than 24 hours later, the Associated Press is reporting that the president will let his jobs council expire -- and has opted not to renew its charter:
President Barack Obama will let his jobs council expire this week without renewing its charter, winding down one source of input from the business community even as unemployment remains stubbornly high.
When Obama in January 2011 formed his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, unemployment was hovering above 9 percent. Two years president later, more than 12 million people in the U.S. are out of work. The unemployment rate has improved to 7.8 percent, but both parties agree that's still too high.
A provision in Obama's executive order establishing the council says it sunsets on Thursday. A White House official said the president does not plan to extend it.
Officials said the president always intended for the council to fulfill its mission and then wind down, and said that Obama would continue to actively engage and seek input from business leaders about ways to accelerate job-creation and economic growth. Among the steps Obama plans to pursue are expedited permits for infrastructure projects, the White House said.
Even before it was clear whether Obama would renew the jobs council, Republicans seized on its likely expiration as evidence the president has devoted insufficient attention to creating jobs, which polling shows remains a top priority for Americans. The Republican National Committee dubbed it part of "the failed Obama record," while the House Republicans' campaign committee, in an online petition, accused Obama of laying off his own jobs council.
Elections have consequences. For all his flaws, Mitt Romney was a dedicated and hardworking public servant -- a man I suspect if elected would have done everything in his power to grow the economy and put Americans back to work. Instead, a narrow majority of Americans chose Barack Obama to lead the nation for another four years, and job creation seems far from his thoughts, much less a domestic priority. He’s chosen to push gun control legislation and immigration reform -- two admittedly divisive issues that should be part of our national conversation -- but why are economic concerns so conspicuously absent from his second term agenda? As it happens, Ed Morrissey isn’t surprised at all, contending that the Obama administration hasn’t focused on job creation for years:
But why should anyone else other than analysts have been surprised? The Obama administration hasn’t focused on job growth since the 2009 stimulus package, which failed at even maintaining the workforce participation levels of June 2009 when the economy stopped contracting after the Great Recession. At that time, the civilian population participation rate in the workforce – the relative measure of how many adults either have jobs or are actively seeking one – was 65.7 percent, the same as when Obama gave his first inaugural address. It’s presently at 63.6 percent, just a tenth of a point up from the 31-year low hit in August 2012. As jobs decrease, so does economic dynamism, and potential growth.
For those who have jobs, the increased joblessness has increased family obligations significantly. On the same day that the BEA announced the contraction in Q4, Pew released a new survey showing that middle-aged households are increasingly providing financial support for unemployed or underemployed adult children. In 2005, 42 percent of middle-aged adults between 40 and 59 years of age provided primary or supplemental support for adult children. In 2012, that number grew to 48 percent, with most of the growth in primary support, going from 20 percent to 27 percent.
Small wonder that many Americans still consider jobs and the economy to be their biggest concerns. Two recent polls underscore that conclusion. Gallup conducted its regular polling on issues a few weeks after the tragic Newtown shooting to discover that only 4 percent of Americans considered gun violence the most important issue. More than five times as many (21 percent) chose “the economy in general,” while four times (16 percent) as many specified “unemployment.” A new poll from Reason this week produced similar results, with 29 percent preferring that Obama focus on the economy, and another 19 percent wanting jobs to be his first priority. Only 3 percent in this poll thought Obama should have guns as his highest priority.
If the president continues to ignore the tens of millions of Americans out of work in this country he will be remembered by posterity as a failed president. So shouldn’t this issue concern him? One would think so. On the other hand, a guy who doesn’t recognize that we have a spending problem is perhaps unlikely to accept the fact that the unemployment rate is too high, either.
Barney Frank must be inconsolable. On Wednesday, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick chose William “Mo” Cowan -- his former chief of staff -- to replace John Kerry in the United States Senate until a special election can be held early next summer:
Cowan, Patrick’s former chief of staff, will serve until a special election is held to fill Sen. Kerry’s seat. Patrick will officially announce the appointment at an 11 a.m. news conference.
Kerry was confirmed on Tuesday to be the nation’s next secretary of state. His resignation after nearly three decades in the Senate becomes official on Friday.
The interim senator will serve until a June 25 special election.
Republican officials close to Scott Brown said Tuesday that the former senator is “leaning strongly” toward running.
U.S. Reps. Edward Markey and Stephen Lynch are expected to seek the Democratic nomination.
As noted above, the Boston Herald reported Tuesday that Republican Scott Brown is eyeing yet another Senate run, and is expected to make his official announcement sometime next week. Meanwhile, a recent poll shows Mr. Brown crushing his Democratic rivals by double digits. The seat, it seems, is his for the taking -- at least for the moment. But if he does run and win -- an outcome that is by no means certain -- he’ll have to run again for re-election in 2014 when Senator Kerry’s term expires. Perhaps this is one reason why running for governor in 2014 might make more sense politically -- after all, does Scott Brown really have the energy to run for a U.S. Senate seat four times in just four years? I guess we’ll find out next week.
UPDATE: This race is going to be a lot closer than previously expected, at least according to a new poll released Wednesday:
Scott Brown would enter the Massachusetts Senate special election with only a slight lead over the Democratic establishment’s candidate, Rep. Ed Markey, according to a poll released Wednesday by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling.
But first Markey will need to get past a primary challenge, as Rep. Stephen F. Lynch is poised to formally announce his candidacy on Thursday for the Democratic nomination.
The automated poll shows Brown leading Markey by three points, 48 percent to 45 percent, in a head-to-head contest. Driven in part by name recognition, Markey starts out with a 52 percent to 19 percent lead over Lynch.
The elite media and scores of journalists on the left are outraged today because a group of pro-gun rights activists allegedly “heckled” Neil Heslin, the father of six-year-old Jesse Lewis -- one of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre -- during a Connecticut hearing on gun violence on Tuesday. Here’s the MSNBC clip making the rounds on Twitter:
But wait. As Twitchy points out, the original video has obviously been altered and tampered with (fast forward to the 15:05 mark):
It’s abundantly clear that someone at MSNBC doctored the original video in order to (a) push their radical, left-wing agenda and (b) to portray gun owners as evil and heartless nut jobs. But the truth is that it was only after Mr. Heslin asked out loud why anyone would want to own an “assault-style weapon” that the activists spoke up in the first place. This is a far cry from “heckling”; Mr. Heslin actually sought their opinion. If anything, this proves once again that the MSM is misleading the public and maligning those with whom they disagree for political purposes. How sad.
The U.S. education system is failing our kids and has been for decades. Thus, the first step towards solving this problem is admitting that we have one. And we certainly do -- as AFP’s Casey Given points out in his op-ed in The Hill today:
Since 1983, the freshmen high school graduation rate has increased a measly 1.8 percent. Meanwhile, student achievement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress has stagnated, dropping by 1 point in reading and increasing by merely 4 points in math among 17-year-olds from the early 1980s to 2008. Today, one-third of fourth graders are functionally illiterate as judged by the NAEP.So, what exactly went wrong?
The answer is not a lack of funding, as teachers unions love to blame. To the contrary, school spending has increased 80 percent since 1983 after adjusting for inflation – that’s triple the growth of enrollment over the same time period. The answer is not low academic standards either, as every major federal education reform since the Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994 has required states to raise them. Rather, instead of throwing more money and tying more red tape to the problem, I believe the answer to achieving real educational reform is one of incentives.
The status quo isn’t working. We throw unconscionable amounts of money into “fixing” American public schools with little or no results. The question, then, is what is the best way to bolster student test scores and raise graduation rates? According to Given, the answer is (a) giving parents more choice about where they send their kids to school and (b) giving teachers more “pedagogical freedom”:
Rather, the success of school choice initiatives over the past two decades have taught us that effective educational reform comes from embracing the diversity of our schools instead of suppressing it. By empowering teachers with greater pedagogical freedom instead of more standards, they are incentivized to tailor their teaching more effectively to students’ needs. By empowering parents with school choice instead of an arbitrary assignment by zip code, they are incentivized to choose the best educational environment for their child.
Proof keeps pouring in that this decentralized approach works. The Harlem Success Academy charters in New York City’s poorest neighborhoods are some of the best schools in the Empire State is an excellent example. Last year alone, 97% of Academy student passed the math and 88 percent passed the English sections of New York’s student assessment test, outperforming the city’s public schools as a whole by 31 percent and 33 percent. Most amazingly, 100 percent of Academy students passed the science section.
The evidence for school choice is not just anecdotal. The largest meta-analysis of charter schools in 2009, found that over two-thirds of studies conducted after 2001 concluded charter schools performed either the same or significantly better than their district school counterparts.
School choice has proven to align incentives towards improving students’ learning instead of complying with the latest one-size-fits-all reform from Washington. It is not until our public school system at large begins to adopt such pedagogical freedom that we will begin to see major improvements in student achievement – especially among the students most in need. It is not until we empower every parent with the choice to send their child to the safest and best school available that our nation will cease to be “at risk.”
It seems to me that education reform is one of those issues lawmakers constantly talk about for political purposes -- “we need to build a 21st century education system” -- yet nothing ever gets done. President Obama, for example, likes to use soaring rhetoric about “winning the future,” but how can we win the future if tens of millions of American children are “functionally illiterate”? The simple answer is we can’t. Until Republicans and Democrats roll up their sleeves and take on the special interests -- i.e., the organizations that oppose sensible reforms and defend the status quo at every turn -- America will continue to decline.
One Republican lawmaker said fairly recently that the greatness of America begins with its people. Well, I agree, and think it’s high time we start remembering that -- before it's too late, and millions more American children grow up without the requisite knowledge and skills they need to be successful.
It's a simple fact that in 2013 more people are attending -- and graduating -- from college than ever before. This doesn't mean that students are necessarily better off, however. According to a new study conducted by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, about half of college graduates are overqualified in their line of work (via Red Alert Politics):
Nearly half of working Americans with college degrees are in jobs for which they're overqualified, a new study out Monday suggests.
The study, released by the non-profit Center for College Affordability and Productivity, says the trend is likely to continue for newly minted college graduates over the next decade.
"It is almost the new normal," says lead author Richard Vedder, an Ohio University economist and founder of the center, based in Washington. …
Vedder, whose study is based on 2010 Labor Department data, says the problem is the stock of college graduates in the workforce (41.7 million) in 2010 was larger than the number of jobs requiring a college degree (28.6 million).
That, he says, helps explain why 15% of taxi drivers in 2010 had bachelor's degrees vs. 1% in 1970. Among retail sales clerks, 25% had a bachelor's degree in 2010. Less than 5% did in 1970.
"There are going to be an awful lot of disappointed people because a lot of them are going to end up as janitors," Vedder says. In 2010, 5% of janitors, 115,520 workers, had bachelor's degrees, his data show.
These statistics suggest that the singular reason why college graduates are taking jobs for which they are overqualified is because the economy simply isn’t growing fast enough -- and there’s a dearth of opportunity in the labor market. Meanwhile, higher payroll taxes and trillion dollar-plus deficits are contributing to America’s stagnant economy. As Paul Ryan articulated on the Meet the Press last weekend, challenging the status quo – and reducing the size and scope of government -- is perhaps the only way Republicans can begin ushering in a new era of opportunity and prosperity:
Incidentally, after a devastating presidential election in 2012, many on the right are debating ways the GOP can move forward as a party and widen their appeal. And one way to do that is for Republicans to become -- and to be recognized as -- the party of opportunity. Governor Bobby Jindal touched on this important point during his fiery speech at the Republican National Committee in Charlotte, North Carolina last week:
Instead of worrying about managing government, it’s time for us to address how we can lead America… to a place where she can once again become the land of opportunity, where she can once again become a place of growth and opportunity.
We should put all of our eggs in that basket.
Yes, we certainly do need folks in Washington who will devote themselves to the task of stopping this President from taking America so far off the ledge that we cannot get back.
We must do all we can to stop what is rapidly becoming the bankrupting of our federal government.
But we as conservatives must dedicate our energies and our efforts to growing America, to growing the American economy, to showing the younger generations how America can win the future.
Pandering to individual constituencies in order to win elections is a fruitless and costly endeavor. Instead, Republicans need to do a better job explaining why the free enterprise system -- not big government -- benefits everybody (not just “the rich”) and will inevitably lead to more jobs and prosperity.
Former Republican Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) has been out of politics for less than a month, but I don’t think he should get too comfortable: A new survey released Friday shows him crushing Democrat Ed Markey in a hypothetical matchup to fill John Kerry’s soon-to-be vacant U.S. Senate seat.
A majority of Massachusetts voters would back former Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) over Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) in a special election to fill the seat expected to be vacated by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), according to a poll released Friday.
The latest survey from MassINC Polling Group showed Brown easily cruising in a hypothetical matchup against Markey. Fifty-three percent of registered Bay State voters said they would support Brown, compared with just 31 percent who indicated they would vote for Markey. But pitted against a generic Democrat, Brown was shown with only an 8-point edge.
The poll showed Brown continuing to enjoy sky-high popularity — as was the case throughout his brief stint in the Senate — with 55 percent of voters saying they have a favorable view of the Republican. Markey is a relative unknown throughout the state: 59 percent of voters surveyed offered no opinion of the longtime congressman.
Although the state and national Democratic establishment has coalesced behind Markey, 71 percent of would-be Democratic primary voters favor a contested primary — an encouraging sign for Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA), who will reportedly announce Friday that he's challenging Markey for the party's nomination in the special election.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Scott Brown has already competed in two statewide elections, and thus is very well known to the public. (Markey, for his part, does not have anywhere near that kind of name recognition). That being said, there’s also some speculation that Senator Brown will hedge his bets and instead run for governor in 2014. Massachusetts, after all, has a history of electing moderate, Republican chief executives -- and with Deval Patrick out of the picture -- his relative popularity would almost certainly give him a leg up on the competition. Whatever he decides to do, however, his once dim political prospects now seem infinitely brighter.
Let us hope he takes advantage of them.
Hold that thought for one second. Of course higher high school graduation rates are something every American can and should celebrate. What’s not to like? However, if we look a bit deeper and try to understand why this phenomenon is actually happening -- this sort of “progress” is slightly more complicated (H/T Allahpundit):
The percentage of students at public high schools who graduate on time has reached its highest level in nearly 40 years, according to the most recent federal government estimates released Tuesday.
Based on data collected from the states for the Class of 2010, the National Center for Education Statistics estimated that 78 percent of students across the country earned a diploma within four years of starting high school. The graduation rate was last at that level in 1974, officials said. …
Mark Hugo Lopez, associate director of the Pew center, said the findings confirm trends his organization has been tracking. “We’ve seen a surge in the Hispanic high school completion rate,” he said.
He pointed to the nation’s soft economy as one reason more students are staying in school but added that there is probably a shift in demographics at play, too…
Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, agreed with Lopez that the weak economy is one reason for the improvement in graduation rates across the board.
“When the economy turns down or there are poor economic conditions, there’s a lack of available jobs for high school dropouts, fewer jobs that they can actually be qualified for,” Buckley told reporters last week. “Historically, there has been a correlation between the dropout rate going down when the economy is weaker.”
Who knew that a painfully slow economic recovery and high unemployment would increase public high school graduation rates? How wonderful!
Well, not so fast. If anything, students are staying in school longer and graduating not because the quality of a public education is markedly improving -- after all, 79 percent of eighth graders in Chicago can’t read proficiently -- but because there’s a dearth of jobs and opportunity in the labor market. I fear this says much more about the president’s failed economic policies than it does about the quality of our U.S. public education system
Still, the lower the public high school dropout rate the better, right? Sure. But the question remains: What are these kids supposed to do when they finally do graduate? Regrettably, the president didn’t address this concern at all during his second inaugural address, and it remains to be seen if and when he will.
Many keen political observers have noticed the complete lack of a serious jobs plan, let alone an open and honest discussion about ways his administration can spur economic growth, in the president’s second inaugural address. In many respects, this comes as no surprise: the president ran a maliciously negative and unserious campaign that sought to destroy his political opponent at all costs. And it worked. But with another recession possibly on the horizon, shouldn’t this issue have been substantively addressed at some point during his somewhat lengthy remarks? The Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Moore addressed this question in a recent Fox Business hit:
“In the whole speech he didn’t talk about jobs, he did not talk about private business and entrepreneurs and the free enterprise system. It was a very pro-government speech. Now the president has a big challenge ahead because we still have a near eight percent unemployment rate…as you know the job creation rate has been about 1/3 to 1/2 of what you would normally expect during an expansion."
In fairness -- as the host points out -- the president did in fact mention the word “jobs” in his speech … three times. But he delivered no serious proposals or blueprint to put America back to work. He emphasized, instead, the dangers of climate change and the moral necessity of investing in “green energy” -- not exactly what one expects to hear when 23 million Americans (remember that number from the campaign?) still cannot find a full-time job.
Incidentally, Allahpundit wrote an interesting piece on Monday suggesting that if The One doesn’t reform our broken entitlement system -- or at least try -- the eyes of posterity will not forget his failure:
[A]n economic rebound in his second term will delay the reckoning with entitlements for a few years longer so his legacy is probably safe in the near term, but if he doesn’t do something wildly unexpected in the next four years to deal seriously with mandatory spending, then his place in history is secure. He’s the guy who expanded health-care entitlements at a moment when Medicare spending was starting to go haywire, the guy who doubled down on the welfare state as the bill was coming due, the guy whose second-term agenda was even more aggressively liberal than his first despite trillions more in debt over four years.
Isn’t this same exact principle true, then, if the president doesn’t address chronic joblessness or the stagnant economy? He can ramble on all he wants about “investing in the future” -- and extol the virtues of big government -- but if he ignores the problems of our time, is it unrealistic to think that one day he might be remembered as the 21st century’s James Buchanan or Herbert Hoover? Hmmm.
Regardless of one’s position on the High Court’s infamous decision forty years ago today to legalize abortion “[a]t any stage of pregnancy, for any reason,” most Americans -- not to mention legal scholars and academics -- recognize that Roe is bad Constitutional law. Nevertheless, support for the controversial ruling has reached an all-time high, at least according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll:
Forty years after the Supreme Court legalized abortion in its Roe v. Wade decision, seven out of 10 Americans support the groundbreaking rulings, according to a poll released Tuesday.
The Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found only 24 percent of Americans would overturn the decision, which legalized abortion throughout the United States. The 70 percent level of support for the ruling is the highest since the poll began tracking it in 1989. Similarly, the 54 percent of Americans who believe abortion should be legal most or all of the time is a record high.
Only nine percent of Americans believe abortion should always be illegal, but 35 percent believe the only exceptions should be to save the life of the mother or in case of rape or incest.
Alternatively, the poll could contain some good news for opponents of abortion rights: nearly three-quarters of Americans believe there are some circumstances where abortion should be illegal.
The editor’s at National Review Online have a powerful op-ed out today. And while they acknowledge that pro-lifers are not necessarily “winning” the fight to preserve and protect innocent human life, they remind us that there’s still reason to be hopeful:
Pro-lifers are not winning: The suggestion is obscene. Nearly 56 million human beings have been killed in the womb since Roe, a toll that rises another million each year. The pro-life movement’s achievement is a witness, not a victory. We have maintained resistance to an injustice rather than vanquished it.
But neither have we suffered a final defeat, nor will we so long as Americans remain who are willing to stand for the country’s true founding principle: that all men are created equal by their Creator; that all of them have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, whatever their creed or station, their race or their place, their might or their weakness. The Supreme Court has been a formidable enemy of this principle for much of our history. It struck down laws against slavery in an attempt to settle that issue and call the contending sides to end a national division. It blocked congressional attempts to protect civil rights following the Civil War. Pro-lifers who are tempted to despair should remember that Plessy v. Ferguson was on the books for even longer than Roe has been. …
Over on the other side of the debate, we labor under no such handicaps. We know that whether we will live to see victory over abortion is not in our hands. We also know that standing for truth, for mercy, and for justice is always within our power, and so we will keep doing it for as long as the evil endures.
I am absolutely convinced that protecting innocent human life is the greatest challenge of our time. Why? Because without life -- without the opportunity to live -- nothing else matters. The fact is that more than 50,000,000 unborn children have been aborted since 1973; that’s roughly one million every single year. As the NRO editor’s explain, the nation can never live up to its core founding principle -- the proposition that “all men are created equal” -- while such a hideous injustice is (a) legally sanctioned and (b) funded with taxpayer dollars.
I’ll leave you with this: Perhaps the greatest political advertisement of all time, courtesy of Dr. Ron Paul:
This whole notion of life not being valuable is something I was just never able to accept.
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