Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Cleveland Curse? (Part Two)

(This is part two of a two-part blog entry. If you are reading this first, STOP!! Sorry. Didn't mean to yell. Well, actually, if you have read any of my previous blogs you probably have discovered that I yell a lot. That's what the "caps lock" effect is for. Yelling. Loud. With energy. Anyway, if you are starting with this one please stop and go back and read the first part first. Thanks.)

Disclaimer: I am married to a public school teacher, and yes, that has effected the views described in this column, but not for the reasons you are thinking. I am madly, passionately, and completely in love with my wife; not with her choice of career. I'm sure what she does has an effect on who she is, but who she is has a far greater impact on how she does what she does. Being married to her has exposed me to her career - beyond the "I remember my school teachers" and "they only work a few months out of the year and are overpaid in comparison" understanding I once held. It is not the love for my wife that changed this, but being immersed in her world. I have to tell you: after being with her for over six years, and seeing what she does, there is no amount of money in this world that would convince me to be a teacher. More on this to follow.

If you have turned on your TV lately, listened to the radio, or spent any time at an online news feed, you have had to hear about what is going on in Wisconsin, Indiana, and now Ohio, concerning public school teachers (and public employees in general) and their unions. The governors of these states (and I'm sure there are others going through the same, or will be soon) are desiring to get their states back in the black. Some are even focusing on "busting" the unions. The latter is not the focus of this article. If you have read any of my previous blog entries (No? Really? Hey, take a break and go back to the beginning and work your way here. Come on - treat yourself!) you will know that in My Humble But Accurate Opinion I believe our government (at the federal AND state levels) has spent us into a major hole. Cutting spending is a primary way of getting us out of that hole (see my "The Donkeys Have It!" article in particular). But that is only HALF of the equation.

Cutting spending is a must. There is no question there. But what are we doing about the income side of the equation? If THAT doesn't change we'll be doing the same thing again in five years. What thing? Read on.

Why, all of a sudden, are public employees in the crosshairs? Because the economy is in a major slump. Why is the economy in a major slump? Well, you can blame the banks and "evil" Wall Street, but for the root you have to go back to the politicians. (Oh J.P., there you go again with another rant on the evils of government! If the government was functioning as it was DESIGNED to function you would probably be reading more of my poetry here instead!) If it wasn't for the regulations imposed upon these establishments we wouldn't HAVE a housing crisis (for starters).

(I was listening to a podcast concerning the Japanese interment camps during WWII. Apparently, the President gave an Executive Order that created this non-Constitutional atrocity. Listen: EVERY time our government "leaders" do something that is outside the established limits set forth in our Constitution, we have "crisis". Maybe those powdered-wig wearing old guys knew what they were talking about when they wrote it.)

I have a question for our political "leaders": Since you are all so anxious to force public school teachers, and other public employees, to pay (more) into their health care plans and retirement programs, I want to know how much you are going to pay into your OWN? Leadership is from the top down. Our "public servants" have the best health care (our President made an outrageous statement that he had great health care) and retirement packages in the land. Far better than anyone in the private sector; including those "evil" CEOs they are so fond of. Many get retirement-for-life after only one term! You make grandiose speeches on how we as a nation need to sacrifice. Yet I don't hear you folks "biting the bullet". Maybe if we the people see sacrifices by those in office, we will be a little more open to making sacrifices ourselves.

(Why are teachers better than politicians? You CAN find at least ONE teacher that understands basic economics!)

Teachers are in a tough spot. Again, you couldn't pay me to do their job. I read an interesting article that made the comment that classroom size was a myth propagated by the teachers unions to hire more teachers. (I'm a fiscal conservative, but sometimes "conservative" commentators really get me riled with their ignorance!) The article referred to a statement by Governor Daniels of Indiana that class size was "virtually meaningless". I replied to the article (including a quote from the article [by Mona Charen]) as follows: "Gov. Daniels is wrong. Class size IS a critical factor in quality of education. 'As the Mackinac Center for Public Policy summarized, "(P)upil-teacher ratios have shrunk nationally for at least the last six decades, yet there have been no quantifiable improvements to student achievement nationally or in individual states.:"' does not factor much of the criteria. Six decades ago the biggest worry was chewing gum and talking in class. They didn't have metal detectors in schools. The percentage of children diagnosed with discipline/mental issues (like ADD) has grown significantly. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) baloney wasn't in effect. What teachers, especially in public schools, deal with today is COMPLETELY different than six decades ago. A disruptive class of 40 (or more) is much harder to teach than a not-so-disruptive class of 20. And no, I'm not a teacher. Just a person with a little sense."

So, let's over-regulate what the teachers can and cannot do in the classroom, make them have to follow all of the "guidelines" (read "laws") of NCLB (for starters), base everything on strict test results and complain of teachers only teaching to the test, and then expect them to be the "Mother Theresa" of the classroom or demand their punishment. Think of it this way: you hamstring your horse and expect it to win EVERY race!! Really??

What about charter and private schools? As I responded to that article: "One additional question: if class sizes don't matter so much, what are the class sizes in private and prep schools? All of the horn-honking of how much better an education a child can get there compared to public schools - are they bigger class sizes? If so, you have your argument. If not, you might better research your sources. What about teacher turnover? Charter schools have quite a bit of turnover in comparison. Is that because there are so many lousy teachers there that they keep getting rid of them (because of no unions)?" Some say that teachers leave private schools because they can't make a living there; much better opportunities in the public school arena. That may be true, but honestly, unless our government gets out of the education business you won't see much of a turnaround in our schools.

And when will these elite in office start to figure in the parent/society portion into the equation of a student's success in school? A teacher has a student approximately 45 minutes out of a day - in high school. The rest is in the hands of parents and outside-of-school influences. I've read where a broken home has more of an impact on test scores than hours of "study island".

But maybe if we accepted Jimmy has "two daddies" or "two mommies" they would be more adjusted and perform better in school. But I digress.

Our politicians should be sued for false advertising: they keep calling themselves leaders. You want to be called leaders? Then lead! Don't demand that others make sacrifices concerning their health care, pay, and pensions, without FIRST making sacrifices concerning your OWN health care, pay, and pensions! Before you demand that people like teachers, police, and firefighters take the heat for your fiscal incompetence, start showing us that you are willing to make cuts of your own. Lead by example. Don't just dictate and expect others to jump for joy.


In Ohio, there was so much controversy over a bill to remove collective bargaining rights from public workers that Senate President Tom Niehaus (a Republican) removed two GOP Senate committee members that were in disagreement so the bill could be voted on. That's right. A Republican abused power to stack the deck to get the vote he wanted accomplished. Funny. Isn't that what Republicans were complaining that Democrats like Pelosi and Reid were doing to get ObamaCare passed? I think that Republicans can now shut their mouths. Scum is not limited to only one bank of the river. Both sides are overflowing in slime!

One of the items being pushed in SB-5 (the Ohio Senate Bill concerning the public employee unions) is merit-based pay. Now, this has some . . . uh . . . merit, but we really need to look at this closely. I've already mentioned some of the things teachers have to put up with: NCLB, absent parents, troubled students, broken homes, and the inability to discipline for fear of being sued. These all have an impact on the ability of a teacher to teach a classroom full of students. Most things are out of their control. Does it really make sense that teachers have to "perform" under all of this, and get paid based on criteria set forth by politicians who send THEIR kids to private schools? How about merit-based pay for politicians? THAT wouldn't work; they'd owe US money!

Do adjustments need to be made? Of course. That's obvious. But let's not "punish" public employees (a major portion of the MIDDLE CLASS), who also are tax revenue generators, just to make political points.

Besides, isn't the focus supposed to be for the good of the children?

© Emittravel 2011

The Cleveland Curse? (Part One)

I'm sure that title strikes a chord in Cleveland sports fans everywhere, but since I'm really not all that versed in athletics of any sort, this article will deal with a different curse: the Cleveland (and in general, Ohio's) job market woes. If you ARE interested in the sports variation of the curse, I would highly recommend you clicking over to my friend Joan's column (after you read this one, of course). It's a fantastic read and you won't be disappointed!

(This is the first part of a two-part blog entry. I started to write it and it kind of got away from me. I chased it down for as long as I could, but eventually realized I was running around like a chicken with its legs cut off. To quote the famous Lou Costello: "I grasp it, but it keeps slipping out of my hand!" These two entries will weave together and somewhere along the line develop a coherent theme. Hopefully. If you started with part two, I hope you took the advice and stopped reading and came back to read this one first, or you might find yourself totally confused. Rather like the author . . . )

As I sat here writing this blog there was a radio commercial that said that Cleveland is the seventh hottest job market. Talk about a P.R. shout-out (the station was advertising for a sales position for itself). I mean, really! How can this be the seventh hottest job market when there are practically NO employers?!? Makes me really concerned for the REST of the country!

Here comes the curse: Cleveland is not a victim of the failing job market. Cleveland is the CAUSE of its failing job market. Cleveland, and the state of Ohio in general, has some of the toughest regulations, and the highest taxes, of any state in the union. Cleveland believes that punishing perspective employers with loads of red tape and taxes will bring them running TO Cleveland! I really believe that statement HAS to be the truth. Why else would they continue on the same path all of these years?

Ohio's public schools are in a tough spot partly due to the shrinking tax base. The housing crisis has lowered the values of homes and therefore the property taxes have gone down as well. The lack of jobs in the state have produced more foreclosed homes - which brings a big, fat, goose egg of tax income. We hear so much from our political "leaders" that they will "create jobs". I'll tell you how jobs can be created: stop stifling businesses! Let them be! Quit trying to scratch the backs of special interest groups - you end up punishing everyone!

And for crying out loud: businesses need to QUIT pushing for regulations to "protect" themselves. All that does is eliminate competition and keep prices high. The economy will have its good times and bad times to be sure, but every time politicians try to help it along, or shore it up, they end up causing a longer and deeper bad time. A free market will have its share of corruption. That is going to happen. Get over it. But the solution to corruption is not regulation: it is allowing individuals to use the power of that free market to drive those businesses out of business. Now, if it is something criminal, there should be some intervention. But make sure that "criminal" activity is not a product of regulation (see the housing market crisis and Wall Street for great examples).

Okay, so the city of Cleveland leadership has come up with a "brilliant" idea: a new convention center! Yeah, that's the ticket! One way to bring in more business is a new convention center! It doesn't matter that this has been tried in other cities with absolute failure. It doesn't matter that Cleveland's own IX Center has found itself with dwindling vendors and attendance at events over the last few years. It doesn't matter that it has already done things like baseball and football stadiums that only get used part of the year and sit dormant the rest. It doesn't matter that the majority of business in this country comes from small business owners; not some major real estate companies that build these monstrosities. Cleveland can do it better! Right . . .

How about some simple wisdom: lower the tax rates in Ohio. All of them. For everyone. "No, J.P., we can't do that! We need the tax revenue!" Really? You are going to use THAT argument? Maybe a basic economic class is needed as a prerequisite for any city "leadership" position. Actually, make that a prerequisite for ANY political "leadership" position - city, state AND federal. Lower taxes PRODUCE more tax revenue. The more money people and businesses have the more they can DO. The more they DO the more they SPEND/INVEST. The more they SPEND/INVEST the more tax revenue gets generated. When the taxes are high NO ONE spends: individuals or businesses. If I were a potential business owner and were looking to start or expand my business, do you honestly think I'm going to go to a city/state that has such high taxes? Come on! Yeah! I want to be cash-strapped and try to hire people. I want to be cash-strapped and spend months-to-years trying to cut through the red tape of a city just to build, and then dole out most of my potential revenue back to the very politicians that are keeping me FROM establishing/growing my business.

Are you kidding me?

Cutting spending is a must. There is no question there. But what are we doing about the income side of the equation? Spending cuts. Now there's a hot topic. Please continue with part two for the rest of the rant.

© Emittravel 2011