Media Spins – Twist or Hide Some Facts

Whenever I read an article that speaks of the unanimous (or near unanimous) Republican opposition to something that is proposed by President Obama I have to chuckle.

Why?

Because the media never mentions the unanimous (or near unanimous) Democrat support for the proposal.

And, to me, that is humorous. And absurd.

Let’s face it, when you are talking about one hundred or several hundred people discussing hot issues, it is very rare that there is 100% consensus on a given project, especially when one is dealing with a mix of conservatives, moderates and liberals.

Add to that the fact that the proposals are dealing with the economy, healthcare, and other major factors concerning Main Street USA and it is virtually guaranteed that there will be division amongst such a large group. Especially when the items under consideration are viewed as mostly liberal.

Do not forget that there was a group of moderate House Democrats who were not in favor of healthcare until earmarks were added (or whatever other secret deals transpired) and that the Senate only achieved their needed 60 votes with huge pork additions for a couple of holdout Democrats.

Thus, my chuckles whenever I see the phrase “near unanimous opposition” being voiced by the other party. Let us not forget the near unanimous support from the ruling party.A final point…those that point the finger at the opposition are thus declaring that everything being proposed is the greatest good for America.

And, that may not always be the case.

Over For now.

Main Street One

The Economy And Healthcare

I am not quite sure why passing and implementing a one trillion dollar-plus healthcare reform package is necessary for our nation’s economic recovery as healthcare was NOT what brought the economy down.

Healthcare, as pointed out by President Obama, is 17.6% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Everything I examine regarding the GDP and what makes up the GDP combine healthcare and social assistance, so that statement is a little misleading – and incorrect.

Let us take a glimpse of the GDP.

The US Department of Labor pegged the US GPD just under $14.2 Trillion for 2008.

In reviewing the DOL spreadsheet the sector that makes up the largest percentage of GDP is real estate (including sales, rental, leasing) at $1.783 Trillion, just over 12.5%. Running a close second is, you guessed it, government at $1.741 Trillion, which would qualify for the definition of “big government,” the kind Patrick Henry warned us about. Manufacturing comes in third place at $1.638 Trillion.

The figure for healthcare and social assistance is just over one trillion dollars, making it about 7% of GDP (not 17.6%), coming is just behind Professional and Technical Services and Finance and Insurance.

Perhaps President Obama’s advisors lumped some of the insurance sector into their healthcare equation to come up with 17.6%, but even if you added ALL finance and insurance to healthcare and social assistance it still falls short of that 17.6% figure.

That 17.6% needs to be clarified as right now it appears to be extremely misleading to Main Street USA. And, as many people know, you can make statistics say anything you want if you work at it hard enough.

Also, as most people are aware, debt is not calculated (or even considered) in the GDP figure and, as government spending and indebtedness is very much part of this healthcare reform, adding potentially hundreds of billions annually would definitely increase the GDP and debt concurrently.

But that makes it an extreme tradeoff for, at this point, with every dollar of government healthcare expense that gets counted in the GDP more than likely another dollar would be added to the national debt.

If, as the president says, “the stars truly are aligned” to pass healthcare reform this year, why is there such tremendous debate on the plan? To me, when the stars are aligned that means everything is picture perfect and it is smooth sailing.

This monstrous financial albatross being presented, containing earmarks and pork rind, is not what Main Street USA needs at present.

And President Obama keeps pointing out that people will support it when they compare it with the “cost of doing nothing.”

I, for one, am not emphatically stating that we should do absolutely nothing.

I am saying that it needs to be reasonable.

One trillion dollars (of debt) is NOT a reasonable cost. And that figure only works if President Obama’s goals are met, which, right now, are anything but aligned with reality. The proposal needs to be based on sound fiscal budgeting and expectations, not just goals that would be nice to meet.

Why cannot the House and Senate propose something straightforward with no excess baggage that produces a product at a reasonable cost?

Because politics is all about scratching backs.

This senator needs a few billion the next couple of years and he will support the bill. Add that in and claim it will reduce obesity. And that senator needs money so add something for his parks and recreation departments to further physical education. And on and on.

As I write this I wonder which is worse; the special interest and lobbying groups that spend billions of dollars annually to influence legislation and spending or the special interests of our own elected officials with their unquenchable need for pork (all of which, of course, is for the good of their constituents).

Over For Now,

Main Street One

Are You As Smart As An 1895 8th Grader ???

One of the things that I do is to provide after-school tutoring for students not doing well in reading and mathematics. It is extremely disheartening to see high school students reading and spelling and performing math at low elementary grade levels. However, it is also encouraging to know that virtually any student can be assisted with proper remediation education.

As I am a researcher I enjoy surfing the web to discover new and old facts, ideas, opinions, etc. In the area of education, I ran across something several years ago that I think will amaze anyone. It is the final exam for 8th grade students in Salina Kansas – from 1895.

Believe me, I was not prepared for the questions on this exam.

Here is one example, the first question in the one-hour Grammar portion:

Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.

A question from the 45 minute section on U.S. History:

Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?

That one is slightly easier but many people cannot correctly identify each of the individuals named.

How about one more from the one-hour Geography section:

What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?

How did you do with these three 1895 8th grade questions?

Would you like to attempt the full five-plus hour exam. Here is a link to one site that has the questions and also, on another page, provides the answers. http://www.barefootsworld.net/1895finalexam.html

I have given this exam to individuals with doctorates in education, masters degrees in business, attorneys, medical doctors, politicians, and others and no one has scored much higher than 50% correct, if that (even taking into account a few obviously outdated questions). Some even gave up!

So, why am I posting this you may be wondering…

Well, we, as a Nation, are becoming less smart. It has been happening over the last century very gradually.

Is that a problem?

Yes, in many ways. One of the most prominent is that illiteracy, for one, drastically affects us economically.

The American Library Association estimates that illiteracy costs America over $225 Billion annually in crime, welfare payments, lost taxes, job incompetence and remedial education. A study by the National Institute of Justice strongly suggests that illiteracy is a primary cause of crime, with estimates that well over 65% of adults in prison are functionally or marginally illiterate and that 85% of juvenile offenders have problems with reading, writing and basic math.

In future blogs, I will take up the history of reading and how, from the research I have done, it appears we ended up in this mess. And, yes it is a mess. We keep throwing billions upon billions of dollars trying to fix the problem when what we really need to do is get early education back to basics.

A final note: Taking that 1895 8th grade final exam from Salina, KS, gave new meaning to the expression, “My grandparents only had an 8th grade education.”

Over for now,

Main Street One