Mike Klein Online

White House Drops a Water Balloon onto No Child Left Behind

Mike Klein

President Barack Obama has dropped a water balloon onto No Child Left Behind.

“In my State of the Union address this year I said Congress should reform No Child Left Behind law based on principles that have guided Race to the Top,” Obama said Friday morning at the White House.  The President stamped his approval onto new education performance guidelines that the administration says were developed by governors and educators nationwide.

“I want to say, the goals behind No Child Left Behind were admirable,” Obama said during a carefully crafted appearance that allowed for no questions.  “President (George W.) Bush deserves credit for that.  Higher standards are the right goal.  Accountability is the right goal.  Closing the achievement gap is the right goal.  We’ve got to stay focused on those goals.”

But he continued, “Experience has taught us that in its implementation No Child Left Behind had some serious flaws that are hurting our children instead of helping.”  Obama said, “I have urged Congress for a while now; let’s get a bipartisan effort, let’s fix this.  Congress hasn’t been able to do it.  So, I will.  Starting today we’ll be giving states more flexibility to meet high standards.”

The White House released a two-page single spaced description of new guidelines that were developed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan with input from school system leaders nationwide.  One feature is common core standards that 44 states including Georgia will use next year.

(Watch the White House statement by President Obama)

Another feature would grant waivers from the NCLB mandate that 100% of students nationwide achieve reading/language arts and mathematics proficiency by 2014.  Duncan has said 82% of schools nationally could fail to achieve NCLB goals next year, which means they would be labeled “failure schools” regardless of any other academic achievements.

Many educators who include Georgia state Schools Superintendent John Barge agree the 2014 goals are unattainable.  This week Barge and Georgia U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson delivered the state’s NCLB waiver request to Duncan during a meeting in Washington D.C.  Isakson and Barge also delivered the state’s proposal that would replace dreaded Annual Yearly Progress reports with a new model to measure performance over multiple years and also using other data.

No Child Left Behind could still be rewritten by Congress but the administration is placing its new bet on an enhanced Race to the Top style model.  “Show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we’ll show you the money,” President Obama said Friday.  “We want to provide you more resources but there’s also got to be a commitment on your part to make the changes that are necessary so we can see actual results.”

The President was introduced by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam who said, “As a Republican I might not always agree with this administration on some policy issues or maybe even the role of federal government, but when there are some things that we can work together on then we should.  This is one of the issues that we can work together on.”

During opening remarks Obama noted that Duncan who lurked tall behind him is “probably the finest basketball player ever in the Capitol.”  We will allow just a little wiggle room here for his long-time Chicago pal, although the President clearly overlooked former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley whose 1983 election to the National Basketball Association Hall of Fame capped a stunning career.

The lanky Bradley was NCAA Player of the Year at Princeton and a 1964 Olympian before he won two NBA championship rings during ten years with the New York Knicks.  Bradley earned the NBA nickname “Dollar Bill” for his uncanny ability to hit big shots under pressure.  The President can only hope Race to the Top is as successful as Bill Bradley playing basketball.

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

September 23, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

As White House Pushes SBA Loans, Bad Debt Piles Up All Around

Mike Klein

This week President Barack Obama traveled through important Midwest primary states to carry the message that he’s doing something about jobs.  Or, he will soon, probably next month, after his smart people think about it a few weeks longer.  The White House website already features a Small Business Administration section and what it says are 100 SBA success stories.

SBA is neither Republican nor Democrat and it definitely is not Tea.  It has been used by White Houses of both stripes, and it has been praised and condemned.  The White House budget director under President Ronald Reagan wanted to abolish it.  SBA survived because politicians recognized that receiving money from politicians made folks feel good about politicians.

The Small Business Administration is a Dwight Eisenhower-era invention.  It has been around since 1953.  It came into vogue after World War II and the Korean War when Americans were on a mission to create consumerism.   Folks wanted to buy things and folks who wanted to sell things were starting businesses by the millions.  SBA money helped start some of those shops.  Less important were cumbersome philosophical issues about whether government should fund business start-ups.

The White House is holding up the Small Business Administration as one resource to help put Americans back to work – which will put taxpaying Americans in hock because SBA loans have to be paid back.  It ain’t free money.

In pursuit of transparency, here’s what the White House would rather you didn’t know:  Taxpayers are on the hook for nearly $70 billion in SBA loans to start-up businesses that failed, especially during the last ten years.  When that happens the largest portion of the bill goes to taxpayers.  That is not a message politicians are eager to share.

A new CATO Institute report from Veronique de Rugy and Tad DeHaven even makes their case to abolish the Small Business Administration because, “The SBA benefits a relatively tiny number of small businesses at the expense of the vast majority of small business that do not receive government assistance. SBA subsidies also represent a form of corporate welfare for the banking industry.”  SBA loans are made by banks.  Taxpayers are on the hook for 85 percent when loans default and the banks are owed.  Banks are willing and even eager government partners.

The CATO report states:  “The SBA will cost taxpayers about $6.2 billion in 2011.  Annual outlays are typically closer to $1 billion, but the SBA has suffered higher than usual losses on its guaranteed loans in recent years, so the costs imposed on taxpayers have soared. The SBA will guarantee almost $24 billion in new loans in 2011. The share of guaranteed loans outstanding that the SBA — and ultimately federal taxpayers — are on the hook for is about $70 billion.”

Using data from the Federal Reserve Board, the National Federation of Independent Business, the Government Accountability Office and academic and government sources, CATO said 19.4 percent of SBA loans made to the top 15 industries that received them failed between 2001 and 2010.  One in four restaurants failed, two in ten beauty salons failed, one in four miscellaneous retail sales stores failed and so forth.  Dentists and physicians had the lowest failure rates.

In their analysis de Rugy and DeHaven noted that President Dwight Eisenhower initially opposed creating the Small Business Administration but he eventually relented.  In 1958 the White House Budget Office said SBA was “an uncontrollable program.”  The agency grew into its own dynasty over several decades.

SBA loans were used by President Ronald Reagan during his first term to support federal set-asides to minority firms.  During Reagan’s second term his budget director, the often controversial David Stockman, described SBA as “a billion dollar waste – a rat hole” and Reagan supported trying to abolish SBA.  That didn’t happen. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both supported expansion of SBA loan programs.

Two years ago President Obama used SBA loans as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and this week SBA loans and success stories are being showcased again, as if there is no possible downside.  This is happening, de Rugy and DeHaven point out, even though SBA’s recent track record continues to get worse.  Bad loans increased from $1 billion in 2006 and 2007 to $3.9 billion in 2009 and $4.8 billion in 2010.

Beware whenever someone says, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

August 17, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Debt Commission: Restore Public Option, Reduce Mortgage Deduction

The bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform appointed by President Barack Obama caught nearly everyone by surprise Wednesday with its unexpected release of a draft report.  The White House said the traveling President would not comment until the Commission’s work is complete, which was already anticipated sometime next month.

Here is a link to the complete 50-page report.

Notably, the Commission draft report buries one of its potentially biggest and most controversial headlines:  “Add a robust public option and/or all-payer system in the exchange” to achieve long-term health care savings.  The very first mention of that idea is found on page 36. Continue reading

November 10, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Georgia Early Vote Should Pass 800,000; Far Less Than 2008 Election

Georgia early voting seems certain to pass 800,000 ballots cast, a sizable number by its own merits, but still down from nearly 2.1 million in the presidential election two years ago.

More than three-quarter million early ballots have been cast, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s elections division.   Total ballots cast were 761,042 with 643,936 voted in person, 117,106 mail-in ballots and 58,606 mail-in ballots outstanding.  General voters can return mail-in ballots through Tuesday.  Military personnel ballots will be counted through Friday.

This is the second general election and the first mid-term in which all eligible Georgians are permitted to vote early in-person or by mail-in without having to provide a reason or excuse.

Two years ago the state recorded 2,084,1279 early ballots and that represented 53% of total ballots, said Matt Carrothers, director of media relations for the Secretary of State’s office.

Presidential election years generate more voters than mid-term elections.  Georgia turnout in the three most recent presidential elections was 69% in 2000 when Texas Governor George W. Bush defeated Vice President Al Gore, 77% four years later when President Bush defeated Massachusetts Sen.  John Kerry and 76% two years ago when Illinois Sen.  Barack Obama defeated Arizona Sen. John McCain.

Fewer Georgians vote in mid-term election years.  Governor Sonny Perdue upset incumbent Governor Roy Barnes in 2002 with 54% of eligible Georgians voting.  The total voter percentage declined to 48% when Perdue won re-election over Democratic challenger Mark Taylor in 2006.

Election history dating to 1988 is available on the Secretary of State website, www.sos.ga.gov/elections.

Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

November 1, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Air Force One Goes Campaigning in Ohio, And You Paid For It

Barack Obama loves to spend your tax dollars flying around the country to talk about hope and change.  His presidency is the most media savvy in history.  There is no end to how much media and how many images White House strategists can generate of Obama being Obama.

When spending restraint should be foremost, last Friday provided another example of Obama spending  tax dollars to create media images about hope and change. The president flew from Washington to Columbus, Ohio.  It’s not a big trip, about 400 miles which you can fly in less than an hour at presidential flight speed.

The president spent one hour in Columbus before the return flight to Washington where Obama attended a Chicago White Sox baseball game against the Nationals.  Okay, even presidents deserve a baseball game. Continue reading

June 22, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Michael Thurmond Prepares For His Biggest Political Challenge

Michael Thurmond will soon either make history, or perhaps see his political career wash away.

A source familiar with his plans says the Democratic Labor Department commissioner will enter the U.S. Senate race in an announcement expected  Wednesday.  Thurmond will be the favorite in the July primary against one political novice, setting up a November race against Republican incumbent Johnny Isakson.  Thurmond will spend the weekend at home in Athens discussing this with family.

Thurmond against Isakson for a U.S. Senate office could eclipse the state’s gubernatorial race in media attention, voter interest and potentially, millions of dollars raised and spent.  A victory over the popular and respected Isakson would make him an instant national political celebrity.  A source close to Isakson said Thurmond “would be swimming in a pool beyond his depth.”   Thurmond has run three successful statewide campaigns but nothing with the intensity, political knifing or media scrutiny of a United States Senate race. Continue reading

April 16, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Losing Job Leaves Colleague “Feeling Bruised”

This past week two more colleagues joined the half million plus Georgians who are out of work.   They toiled for big companies, Coca-Cola and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who apparently have not heard we are in an economic rebound made possible by the Barack Obama administration.

They entered the ranks of newly laid off professionals the same week the White House admitted the inevitable:  Official unemployment will remain around 10% nationally all year and that is not good news for any politician, Republican, Democrat or Tea Party.   One told me she is “feeling bruised.”

Perhaps they are just a bit fortunate.  Now they can reinvent.  Think about all the poor folks back in the office who sit around all day, fearful someone has painted a target on them.  The best part is they no longer have to get up in the morning and wonder, is this the day they send me home? Continue reading

February 15, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Achilles Heel That Could Engulf Obama

Atlanta Mike Pix_Press_Club_189_-_Version_2Wednesday morning brought a flurry of discussion about Tuesday elections along with this statement from a newly re-elected politician.  “Those who want to work with me are most welcome, regardless of whether they opposed me in the election or whether they supported me in the election.”   And with those words, Hamid Karzai began his new term as Afghanistan’s corrupt president.

Politicians and pundits are fairly consumed this week about whether Tuesday election results in New Jersey and Virginia constitute a rebuttal of the Barack Obama administration or some other cosmic signal that predicts the November 2010 future for Democrats and Republicans. Continue reading

November 4, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

HBO’s New Docu Hit: The Election of Barack Obama

Atlanta Mike Pix_Press_Club_189_-_Version_2Barack Obama is running hard.  Not for himself, not yet at least, but he’s running hard.  It is the 2006 silly season.  The young, first term, unaccomplished Illinois senator with an oratorical gift is wearing out the campaign trail.  The nation has soured on George W. Bush and Democrats see the midterm election as their opening much like a wily mouse sees sitting cheese.

“I love elections, so much fun,” Obama says, “It’s even more fun when you’re not on the ballot.”

These images are among the first seen in HBO’s new documentary “By The People: The Election of Barack Obama.”   The film’s national broadcast premiere is scheduled for Tuesday evening, November 3.  HBO recently hosted filmmakers Amy Rice and Alicia Sams during an invitation only Atlanta premiere at The Carter Center, attended by hundreds. Continue reading

October 25, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment