Archives: September, 2009

Nanny State Doesn’t Like Competition

“A Michigan woman who lives in front of a school bus stop says the state is threatening her with fines and possibly jail time for babysitting her neighbors’ kids until the bus comes,” CNN reports.

Lisa Snyder of Middleville, Mich., says she takes no money for watching the three children for 15-40 minutes each day so that the neighbors can get to work on time.

The Department of Human Services, acting on a complaint that Snyder was operating an illegal child care home, demanded she either get a license, stop watching the kids or face the consequences, WZZM says.

Snyder calls the whole thing “ridiculous” and tells the Grand Rapids TV station that “we are friends helping friends!”

A DHS spokesperson tells the station that it has no choice but to comply with state law, which is designed to protect Michigan children.

She’s not getting paid. She’s possibly not even letting the neighbor kids into her house. The kids are waiting for a school bus in front of her house, and she’s told her neighbors she’ll keep an eye on their kids. And the government wants her to get a license. (Something similar is happening in Britain.)  This is what people mean when they warn that an ever-expanding government threatens the values of neighborliness and community. When the government provides services for free, or when it erects obstacles to individuals’ providing those services, it reduces private provision and simultaneously increases the demand for government services. If you make it illegal for neighbors to watch one another’s kids, you weaken ties of neighborhood and community.

Our nanny-state government not only wants to take care of us from cradle to pre-K to K-12 to homebuying to medical care to retirement to grave, it not only considers adult Americans “just like your teenage kids, [not] acting in a way that they should act,” it not only wants to “nudge” us into acting the way it thinks we should, now it thinks that neighbors should have to get a license to keep an eye on the kids congregating in front of their homes. It’s enough to make you think we have too much government.

Climate Change and Health Care: Free Lunches?

In the debate over health care reform, advocates of expanded government health insurance suggest we can pay for this by making Medicare and Medicaid more efficient.

In Paul Krugman’s most recent column, he makes a similar claim about reducing greenhouse gas emissions:

The evidence suggests that we’re wasting a lot of energy right now. That is, we’re burning large amounts of coal, oil and gas in ways that don’t actually enhance our standard of living — a phenomenon known in the research literature as the “energy-efficiency gap.” The existence of this gap suggests that policies promoting energy conservation could, up to a point, actually make consumers richer.

Both claims of a “free lunch” are heroic, at best.

In the case of health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid are inefficient, but to make them more efficient we have to reduce government subsidy for health insurance, not expand it.

In the case of energy efficiency, more energy-efficient practices exist (e.g., replacing incandescent light bulbs with CFLs), but they are expensive: if they actually made consumers richer, most would be using them already.

Now the fact that expanded government health insurance and increased energy efficiency would cost more, not less, does not prove they are bad ideas (that’s a separate discussion). But it means society must evaluate a tradeoff, not just assert we can have something for nothing.

C/P Libertarianism, from A to Z

Under Current Law, Can the Government Ban Books?

The Citizens United case currently before the Supreme Court may radically reshape campaign finance law for years to come. Former FEC commissioner Bradley A. Smith spoke at a forum on the case a day before the rehearing before the high court.

According to Smith, who is also the founder of the Center for Competitive Politics,  under current law, the government does have the power to ban certain books  if those books are published by a corporation, as ruled by the Supreme Court in 1990.

Watch:

Now We See the Violence Inherent in the System

In case you’re wondering how Congress and President Obama plan to enforce their little compulsory health insurance schemes, here’s a note explaining their strategy from the head of Congress’ non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation to Sen. John Ensign (R-NV).

Yeah, but … it’s not like it’s … you know … a tax or anything.  Oh, wait.

The Video Is Creepy, But the Public-Schooling Song Remains the Same

You’ve probably already seen it, but I thought I’d post it anyway. For those who haven’t yet watched it, below is the video of kids at the B. Bernice Young Elementary School — a public school in Burlington, New Jersey — belting out a little diddy about Barack Obama and all the wonderful things he’s declared. According to the school district, this Presidential Idol performance was put on as part of a Black History Month celebration.

In case you couldn’t make out everything the kiddos were singing, here are the lyrics:

Song 1:
Mm, mmm, mm!
Barack Hussein Obama

He said that all must lend a hand
To make this country strong again
Mmm, mmm, mm!
Barack Hussein Obama

He said we must be fair today
Equal work means equal pay
Mmm, mmm, mm!
Barack Hussein Obama

He said that we must take a stand
To make sure everyone gets a chance
Mmm, mmm, mm!
Barack Hussein Obama

He said red, yellow, black or white
All are equal in his sight
Mmm, mmm, mm!
Barack Hussein Obama

Yes!
Mmm, mmm, mm
Barack Hussein Obama

Song 2:
Hello, Mr. President we honor you today!
For all your great accomplishments, we all doth say “hooray!”

Hooray, Mr. President! You’re number one!
The first black American to lead this great nation!

Hooray, Mr. President we honor your great plans
To make this country’s economy number one again!

Hooray Mr. President, we’re really proud of you!
And we stand for all Americans under the great Red, White, and Blue!

So continue —- Mr. President we know you’ll do the trick
So here’s a hearty hip-hooray —-

Hip, hip hooray!
Hip, hip hooray!
Hip, hip hooray!

Um, yikes!

Now, let’s get one thing straight: I don’t think this is part of a plot by the President to push his political and social ideas on children. He obviously has supporters who would be happy to do that, and he might like it if people thought of him as being a bit god-like, but videos like this could be more alarming to the President than anyone else, setting up the creepy image that he really does have a cult following, an image he might prefer voters not have. And unlike the brouhaha over the President’s address to students earlier this month, which was touched off by loaded study guides created by Obama’s own Education Department, there’s no evidence that this incident was orchestrated by the White House.

That said, this situation is nonetheless disturbing, especially because of the response from district superintendent Christopher Manno. In a statement, Manno said:

Today we became aware of a video that was placed on the Internet which has been reported by the media. The video is of a class of students singing a song about President Obama. The activity took place during Black History Month in 2009, which is recognized each February to honor the contributions of African Americans to our country. Our curriculum studies, honors and recognizes those who serve our country. The recording and distribution of the class activity were not authorized.

Allow me to summarize: This is an outrage — who the heck let you people know what was going on in my school?

Such secrecy, of course, should have no place in public schools, yet secrecy — or at least confusion and obfuscation — is omnipresent. Ever attend a school board meeting? I’ve sat in on several, and I’ve watched lots of people try in vain to get clear answers about lots of important questions. Or how about getting straight answers about district budgets? Good luck there. And though occurrences as blatantly unacceptable as the one in this video are pretty rare, why should we be all that suprised that the superintendent seems so dismissive of extremely legitimate concerns? I mean, what are people going to do if they don’t like what’s going on at the school, stop paying taxes? I hope they like jail…

If education were grounded in choice, we wouldn’t have these kinds of problems, at least not at nearly the level we have them with government schooling. For one thing, parents who’d like their kids to literally sing the praises of President Obama could pick institutions with music programs so oriented, while those with more traditional musical tastes could choose like-eared schools. In addition, school leaders would have a much stronger incentive to listen to customers’ concerns. If they didn’t, they probably wouldn’t have those customers much longer. Finally, were dissatisfied people able take their money elsewhere, “accountability” wouldn’t have to come through wasteful and inherently politicized mechanisms like this: The state commissioner of education has directed Superintendent Manno to conduct a review of the incident to ensure that Black History Month can be observed without “inappropriate partisan politics in the classroom.”

I’m sure that will turn out well, but we’ll probably never know one way or the other.

Another Chance to See Bill Cosby and Ben Chavis

In case you missed the MSNBC education townhall event featuring Bill Cosby and star charter school principal (and author) Ben Chavis and others, it will re-air this coming Sunday from noon to 2:00pm.

‘Course, you can’t ask your television set questions (not with a reasonable expectation of satisfactory answers, at any rate). So why not plan to stop by the Cato Institute on Friday, October 2nd at noon, and meet Ben Chavis in person along with Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews? We’ll be reserving plenty of time for questions — and it should be a mighty interesting event: “America’s Top Models: Can the Nation’s Best Charter Schools Be Brought to Scale?”

Hope to see you there.

Keep Dreaming, Mr. Vice President

According to The Hill, in a conference call yesterday with the nation’s governors, Vice President Joe Biden said that “In my wildest dreams, I never thought it would work this well.”  The “it” would be the administration’s $787 billion so-called “stimulus” package.

At the same time, USA Today reported:

Nearly $10 billion in stimulus aid to repair the nation’s tattered highways has largely bypassed dozens of metropolitan areas where roads are in the worst shape, a USA TODAY analysis shows… The problem is a byproduct of a stimulus package designed to spend as fast as possible to revive the economy. Many roads are in such bad shape that repairs would take too long and cost too much to qualify for funds, says John Barton, head of engineering for Texas’ Department of Transportation. The result is that counties with the worst roads won’t get much more repair money than counties with better roads. The 74 counties with half of the nation’s bad roads will split $1.9 billion, records show; counties with no major roads in bad shape will split about $1.5 billion.

A few weeks ago I was driving on I-70 somewhere around Washington, PA arra_signand got stuck in a traffic jam over what appeared to be a small bridge maintenance job.  A sign, also funded by taxpayers, proudly declared that the maintenance was made possible by the “stimulus” legislation.  What irritated me more than the traffic jam was the fact that the stretch of I-70 I was on is a notoriously white-knuckle ride.  The pavement is old and the two lanes are squished between cement dividers, leaving little room for error.  A reasonable person might conclude that fixing I-70 would be a priority.  But reasonable and Congress go together like wolves and sheep.  To me it was further evidence of the inefficient, politicized nature of federal infrastructure spending.  (It also brought to mind former pork-barrel congressman Bud Shuster’s lightly traveled I-99 in central PA.)

In a different article USA Today also reported:

The $787 billion economic recovery package also is stimulating growth in the federal government as agencies hire thousands of workers and spend millions of dollars to oversee and implement the package, according to government records and spokesmen… That’s helped fuel the continued growth of the federal government, which increased by more than 25,000 employees, or 1.3%, since December 2008, according to the latest quarterly report. During that time, the ranks of the nation’s unemployed increased by nearly 4 million, Labor Department statistics show.

Apparently for VP Biden, “stimulus” success means inefficient infrastructure spending and more federal employees.