Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

John Key leads New Zealand conservatives to 48-25 majority victory over leftists

National Party leader John Key

National Party leader John Key

Note: The New Zealand conservative party is called the National Party, but their policies are center-right, at least on fiscal issues.

The Wall Street Journal reports on a stunning victory.

Excerpt:

John Key is set to lead New Zealand for a third consecutive term after official results showed his party garnered 48% of the national vote, and would likely end up with 61 seats in a 121-member Parliament.

[...]David Cunliffe, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, conceded defeat late Saturday. The Labour Party picked up 25% of the overall vote, according to the Electoral Commission, while the Green Party, always thought to be its likeliest coalition partner, won 10%.

The 53-year-old Mr. Key has helped steer New Zealand to a level of prosperity rarely found in developed countries since the global financial crisis, campaigning against a backdrop of the strongest economic growth in a decade.

[...]Mr. Key’s victory was stronger than opinion polls were predicting. Meanwhile, Labour’s weak showing was the worst since the 1920s, prompting speculation of a possible change in leadership, though Mr. Cunliffe said he had no plans to resign. “I don’t believe that rotating the leaders is the key to changing and upgrading our party,” he said Sunday in a television interview. “If I did, I would simply stand down now.”

The University of Otago’s Mr. Edwards said it would be difficult for Mr. Cunliffe to reassert his authority after Labour’s poor result, but added that the party still had no obvious replacement.

The Green party’s support was little changed from 2011, despite opinion polls predicting it could win as much as 14% of the vote. Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei said Sunday the party had consolidated its 2011 result and held on to its 10% support even though the country had swung to the right.

The National Party is not achieving this economic growth by raising taxes on individuals and job creators – New Zealand has the second lowest taxes in the industrialized world.

Look:

Many countries have been working hard to improve their tax codes. New Zealand is a good example of one of those countries. In a 2010 presentation, the chief economist of the New Zealand Treasury stated, “Global trends in corporate and personal taxes are making New Zealand’s system less internationally competitive.” In response to these global trends, New Zealand cut its top marginal income tax rate from 38 percent to 33 percent, shifted to a greater reliance on the goods and services tax, and cut their corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 30 percent. This followed a shift to a territorial tax system in 2009. New Zealand added these changes to a tax system that already had multiple competitive features, including no inheritance tax, no general capital gains tax, and no payroll taxes.

In a world where businesses, people, and money can move with relative ease, having a competitive tax code has become even more important to economic success. The example set by New Zealand and other reformist countries shows the many ways countries can improve their uncompetitive tax codes.

Compare that with the United States which is stuck down at 30 out of 32 countries! We have a lower median income and labor force participation than we did five years ago, despite packing over NINE TRILLION dollars onto the national debt.

John Key isn’t packing trillions onto his country’s national debt  they are set to balance the budget in the coming year. And more than the balance budget, he is also trying to privatize bloated, inefficient state-run companies. Imagine what we could do if we privatized the USPS, the departments of motor vehicles and AMTRAK. Just cut the fat out completely.

So now we have conservative majority governments in Canada (Harper), Australia (Abbott) and New Zealand (Key).

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , ,

Is it “brilliant” to accumulate $185,000 of debt studying the humanities?

From the Des Moines Register, an article by Ms. Rehha Basu.

Excerpt:

Sixteen years ago, Patricia (P.J.) Johnston of Des Moines made the front page of this paper for collecting her diploma from Drake University at just 19. “Johnston was reading books on French existentialism while others her age were still buying comic books,” wrote reporter Tom Alex of the young woman who majored in religion and philosophy, dabbled in music and astronomy and found time to take part in online discussions on the Bible.

“I think I’m probably meant to be an academic,” Johnston was quoted as saying. And she has been, getting a master’s in one institution, going to seminary at another, doing field research in India in her area of interest — Indian Catholicism — and currently working toward a Ph.D in religious studies at the University of Iowa.

President Barack Obama came through Johnston’s university on Wednesday, where he said there is no greater predictor of success than a good education. “This country has always made a commitment to put a good education within the reach of everybody who’s willing to work for it,” Obama said. “That’s part of what made us special. … That’s a commitment that we need to reaffirm today.”

He talked about the untenable debt that’s limiting options for today’s college-goers — $25,000 on average — because tuition and fees have more than doubled since they were born.

Johnston didn’t get to hear him since she was teaching a class on Buddhism. But she knows a lot about educational debt. She has $185,000 in student loans to repay.

As it is, she sleeps on her office floor on the days she has to be in Iowa City, riding the Greyhound bus in from Des Moines. She helps support her mother with the approximately $16,000 she earns as a teaching assistant. But she is in danger of dropping out before getting her doctorate because she has hit her limit on loans, and most likely won’t be able to get a teaching assistant position next year because of cuts in undergraduate programs.

If that happens, she wrote me, she would be this far along, “facing the job market in my mid-30s with no marketable job skills of any kind.”

Johnston grew up on welfare and other forms of public assistance. Her divorced mother was unable to hold down a job for reasons that were never diagnosed. Johnston got through college with scholarships, grants, some help from her late grandmother, and only $18,000 in debt.

Student loans should not be connected to the government as they are now – they should be privatized. That way, taxpayers are not stuck with the bill if the person cannot make a career out of what they are studing. What is this person doing going abroad in India? What is she doing riding on Grayhounds? It makes no sense. If she had to go to a for-profit bank, then she would never get a student loan, because they know they would never get the money back. We have to have a system where people pay their own way, so that they can’t take risks with anyone else’s money but their own (or their loan guarantor’s). No taxpayer money should be available to them, and no taxpayer money should be given to subsidize universities, either – it just raises the cost of tuition. Once the number of students applying to the humanities is reduced because no loans are available, then tuition will come down for those who really intend to make a go of it.

I think a lot of the problem here comes from growing up without a father. Fathers teach their children to be practical because they worry more than mothers about the children not being able to be independent and fend for themselves.

UPDATE: The Captain comments on this story here.

UPDATE: This is from the woman’s Facebook page:

I have never asked anybody to pay my student loan debt for me, and I will pay it down someday, even if I have to eat ramen noodles for the rest of my life. I was willing to undertake my studies at any cost and at any degree of personal risk because I believe in God and I am convinced that I am doing what God is calling me to do. If you read the New Testament, you will find a great deal about how people are called to give up everything they own – houses and wealth and family and respectibility and everything else – to do whatever it is that God calls them to do. I am not brave and no longer optimistic, but I have tried to take God at his word.

I am not financing education entirely through student loan debt. I held work study jobs as an undergraduate, and have usually held some kind of on-campus employment. I have been a TA for the university for the last seven years. The fact is, government support of higher education is down and the cost of tuition has outpaced salaries to such a great degree in this country that virtually nobody is able to afford an education on their own wages without taking on a substantial burden of student loan debt. The vast majority of the anecdotes to the contrary concern degrees earned twenty or thirty years ago, before major structural changes in the financing of higher education – in the post-war years, government funding allowed the vast majority of expense for education to be met through Pell grants and scholarships, making it possible for many people to work themselves through school. That hasn’t been possible for most people in most degree programs for at least thirty years, and these nostalgic memories of an entirely different time and set of circumstances are not doing the debate on higher education financing in this country any good at all.

I am not a “professional student” nor am I taking an especially long time to pursue my degree – this is simply how long humanities education takes. http://chronicle.com/article/In-Humanities-10-Years-May/16231

If you only see value in STEM disciplines, I probably will not convince you that humanities education is valuable. There used to be a sense in this country that certain things had value and meaning in their own right, not simply because they produced nice technological gadgets or made bundles of money for businesses. Even conservatives such as Allan Bloom used to realize that it impoverishes us spiritually when we turn away from the humanities, the cultural legacy of Western society. Would that their political descendants had as much grace or wisdom.

She’s not being forced into this course of action. She’s choosing it deliberately, and she wants other people to pay to make her impractical flight from reality financially sound.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Is Baltimore’s plan to use female prison guards in a male prison working?

The liberal Daily Beast reports. (H/T Ari)

Excerpt:

The secretary of Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services watched this week as the agency he has run for the last six years turned into a national laughingstock after federal officials indicted 13 women who, as guards at the Baltimore City Detention Center, acted like little more than underlings for members of a dangerous prison gang, the Black Guerrilla Family. Four of the correctional officers became reportedly pregnant by the leader of the gang, and two of them had his name tattooed onto their bodies—one on her neck, the other on her wrist.

[...]The allegations unsealed in the federal indictment are eye-popping. Many have been quick to make the comparison to The Wire, the crime drama that put Baltimore’s criminal underworld into the public consciousness, but what appears to have gone on at the Baltimore City Detention Center, a medieval-looking hulk of a jail in the center of town, would strain the credulity of HBO. Female guards smuggled cellphones, marijuana, and prescription drugs to inmates. Gang members ordered hits from inside the jail and dined on salmon and Grey Goose vodka that was smuggled in on their behalf. Corrections officers stood guard for one another so they could have sex with inmates. They warned prisoners of upcoming searches of their cells by unfriendly colleagues. Tavon White, the leader of the Black Guerrilla Family who allegedly impregnated four of the guards and was there waiting for his murder trial to commence, was caught bragging on a wiretap: “This is my jail. You understand that? I’m dead serious. I make every final call in this jail.”

Maybe we should be setting some limits on the feminist idea that men and women are interchangeable, and that women have to make up have the workforce of every job that men do. That’s the feminist ideal, but I don’t think that customers (in this case, the taxpayers) are well-served by it.

If we as citizens keep voting for bigger government, we need to understand that government is thoroughly compromised by left-wing ideologies that are not interested in producing results for us. If you want to get value for money, you go to the private sector and buy something from a private business that is accountable to you on price and quality. We already have lots of private sector run prisons here, and they work better than Baltimore, that’s for sure. Even other countries have tried privatized prisons, why not Maryland?

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , ,

How Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady, saved Britain

Here’s an article from the UK Daily Mail with some more details about her.

Margaret Thatcher stood almost alone in driving through the tough policies now credited with saving the economy, secret papers reveal.

The Tory Premier had to take on her predecessor Harold Macmillan, Bank of England governor Gordon Richardson and even her own Chancellor Geoffrey Howe to push through the policies which pulled Britain back from the brink of economic chaos.

Documents released by the National Archives under the 30-year rule show the pressure Mrs Thatcher faced from the Establishment behind the scenes – and the extent to which she was isolated.

In 1980, the year after becoming Britain’s first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher embarked on a controversial programme to revive the moribund economy through deep public spending cuts and strict control of the money supply, intended to stamp out inflation.

He warned that while her programme of cuts might give a ‘sense of exhilaration’ to her supporters, the country was heading for industrial collapse and ‘dangerous’ levels of unemployment.

Macmillan, then 86, sent the letter following a meeting with the Prime Minister at Chequers in August 1980.

He criticised her for abandoning ‘consensus politics’ to pursue radical reforms and ‘divisive politics’, which he said went against the ‘essence of Tory democracy’.

It was Macmillan who coined the phrase ‘you’ve never had it so good’ in 1957 during the long post-war economic boom.

His brand of consensus politics is now credited with contributing to the economic malaise that brought Britain to its knees in the late 1970s.

Years later, in her memoirs, Mrs Thatcher poured scorn on consensus politics, writing: ‘What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner “I stand for consensus”?.’

[...]In 1981, 365 economists wrote to The Times urging Mrs Thatcher to change course and limit the damage caused by the recession.

But she was unmoved, and her tough stance succeeded in reducing inflation from 27 per cent to four per cent in four years, putting Britain on the road to recovery.

Mrs Thatcher’s economic views were heavily influenced by the right-wing Cabinet minister Sir Keith Joseph, with whom she set up the free market think tank the Centre for Policy Studies in 1974.

Both drew on the work of the influential American economist Milton Friedman whose monetary theories challenged the post-war consensus on economic thinking.

I recommend reading the whole article for some more articles where Lady Thatcher had to stand against everyone and hold onto her convictions in the teeth of the majority.

Here’s an article from Forbes magazine that summarizes her effort to turn Britain around.

Excerpt:

It’s hard to appreciate today how desperate Britain’s condition was before Thatcher took office.  Its economy was a laughing stock, the perennial sick man of Europe.  Strikes were endemic and union bosses effectively governed the country.  Her Conservative Party had long ago made its peace with the welfare state and the ethos of high spending and high taxes. While the previous Tory Prime Minister, Edward Heath, wanted to revive Britain, he hadn’t a clue how to do it. In a make-or-break showdown with the coal miner’s union, Heath called a special election under the banner “Who Governs Britain?”  Heath lost and unions’ dominance in Britain seemed secure.

Great leaders have an astute sense of taking advantage of circumstances. Even though Heath had lost two elections, none of the senior party officials would challenge him.  At the time, Thatcher was not regarded as one of the party’s major figures.  But she was the only Tory who firmly believed in free markets and in Britain’s ability to become again a proud nation based on the principles of liberty. She was a devotee of Friedrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman and of the idea of paring back big government and giving free enterprise room to flourish. Astonishingly she beat Heath in a leadership fight in 1975 and led the Tories to victory in 1979.

Immediately she began slashing income tax rates and reining in galloping spending and fighting inflation.  She also exhibited that critical sense of timing. When she took office, she was faced with a potential strike of nurses whose union was demanding huge pay increases. Thatcher compromised in a way that some thought she didn’t have the backbone to turn Britain around.  Instead she was exhibiting a great politician’s sense of knowing when to pick a fight.  Thatcher eventually pushed through major labor union reforms and made it clear she would not tolerate any union riots or violence.  Shortly after Thatcher won reelection, the coal miners union, which had destroyed Heath, decided to take her on. But unlike Heath Thatcher was fully prepared.  The big showdown ensued and Thatcher beat the coal miner’s union resoundingly. It never recovered from that defeat.

Thatcher knew the deadweight on the economy of excessive taxation. She cut the top income tax rate from 98% to 40%. She cut the corporate income tax rate from 52% to 35%.

One of Thatcher’s greatest innovations was the systematic selling off of the government’s business assets, dubbed privatization.  After World War II Britain nationalized enormous swaths of the economy which actions subsequent Conservative governments left largely untouched.  Thatcher sold government companies off and her example has been followed by countless nations around the world.

In the area of privatizations, she did two remarkable things. She sold off much of Britain’s public housing.  An enormous number of Britons, far more than in the U.S., lived in these government-owned buildings. Thatcher pushed the sale of these apartments to occupants at low prices and on very advantageous terms. The purpose was to begin to shift the mentality of people and their dependence on government. Her other smart move was in the privatization of government-owned companies:  offering a significant number of shares to workers at very low prices.  Union leaders hated privatization but their opposition was undermined as their members realized that they could do very well buying cheap shares in these newly-privatized entities.  Here again she was changing peoples’ thinking:  pro-big government workers now saw themselves as share owners, taking on more of a capitalist mentality.

Before Thatcher, many social observers thought that Britain had an ingrained, unchangeable, anti-commercial culture that would forever stand in the way of the country becoming an economic success. Yet within a decade of her taking office, Britain had the most vibrant, large economy in Europe, one even more dynamic, innovative than that of Germany’s.  London became a magnet for entrepreneurs from France, Sweden and elsewhere.

One unchangeable characteristic of a great leader is courage and that means taking career-breaking risks.  Thatcher demonstrated her mettle in the Falkland Islands crisis.  When the Argentinean military dictatorship seized Britain’s Falkland Islands, most military experts felt the Sceptred Isle simply did not possess the military means to take them back. Defying almost the entire political establishment which was haunted by both Britain’s current weakness and the memory of the Suez Canal debacle in 1956, Thatcher declared that the seizure would not stand and that Britain would go to war to take the Islands back. Thankfully she received critical help from the U.S. thanks to in large part the unrelenting efforts of Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger (who years later became Publisher and Chairman of Forbes). To the surprise of experts, Britain’s military expedition succeeded. The Argentinean military dictatorship fell and democracy was restored in that country.  For Britain the Falklands war was a huge boost to a demoralized nation. To the world it meant that once again tyranny would be resisted.

I recommend reading that whole article. It’s hard not to smile at a woman who clearly loved her country and worked to save it from poverty.

Why good men love Maggie

And now I must offend everyone. See, I have a theory about women. I think that women generally tend to be more beholden to the opinions and fashions of the crowd than men are. It’s not absolute, but it’s maybe two-thirds to one-third, in my experience. I think that it is generally hard for them to hold to their convictions in the face of peer pressure. That’s why so few young, unmarried women are conservative after graduating from college. As soon as they reach college, they are swayed towards liberal views by their need to feel good about themselves and their need to be liked by others. Their views at home were not rooted in real knowledge, they were just fitting in with their families and churches and saying whatever words they were expected to say. And then they go off to college and learn other words to say from another community that uses praise and blame to replace their former convictions with new convictions.

But Maggie Thatcher wasn’t like that. And here’s why:

John Ranelagh writes of Margaret Thatcher’s remark at a Conservative Party  policy meeting in the late 1970’s, “Another colleague had also prepared a paper arguing that the middle way was the pragmatic path for the Conservative party to take .. Before he had finished speaking to his paper, the new Party Leader [Margaret Thatcher] reached into her briefcase and took out a book.  It was Friedrich von Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty.  Interrupting [the speaker], she held the book up for all of us to see.  ‘This’, she said sternly, ‘is what we believe’, and banged Hayek down on the table.”  (John Ranelagh, Thatcher’s People:  An Insider’s Account of the Politics, the Power, and the Personalities.  London:  Harper Collins, 1991.)

Policies like unilateral disarmament, wealth redistribution and redefining marriage sound good to many women – especially in college, and especially when only one side is presented and the other side is demonized. The only way to resist ideas that feel good and ideas that get you peer-approval is to have formed your own views through independent study. Lady Thatcher’s economic policies were formed through a study of real economists like Nobel-prize-winning economist F.A. Hayek and Nobel-prize-winning economist Milton Friedman. The reason why she was able to hold to her principles is because she knew what she was talking about, and her opponents did not. She didn’t care about feeling good. She didn’t care about what other people thought of her. She knew was right, and that was enough to sustain her in trying times. She had the knowledge, and her opponents couldn’t change her core convictions by trying to shame her. It didn’t work.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How privatization turned the worst-performing NHS hospital around

From the American Spectator.

Excerpt:

[T]he most successful of the “drastic” experiments put in place is that much-hated bête noire of progressives and Obamacare supporters everywhere: privatization. The Mail Onlinereports that Hinchingbrooke Hospital, “The first NHS trust to be operated entirely by a private company has recorded one of the highest levels of patient satisfaction in the country.”

In other words, the Brits were so desperate to fix their crumbling health care system, they experimented with the private market and it is outperforming government-run health care without breaking a sweat. Hinchingbrooke was, like so many hospitals in the UK, about to go under when a private company called Circle Holdings was awarded a 10-year contract to run it. This is the first time such a company has been given control of an NHS hospital and the results will not come as a surprise to anyone who understands free enterprise.

As the Mail Online goes on to report, “The company running the trust has slashed losses at the hospital by 60 per cent and will soon begin to pay… debts built up over years of mismanagement.” Though will be no surprise to free market advocates, it has been a real eye-opener to the NHS. Privatization isn’t the dirty word it once was in the much-maligned health system: “The takeover deal … is seen as a blueprint for the future of many NHS trusts. The George Eliot Hospital in Warwickshire is already considering adopting the model.”

It will also come as no surprise to those who believe the market provides the most efficient health care delivery model that, in addition to dramatically improving the financial prospects, privatization has improved patient satisfaction. Before Hinchingbrooke was taken over by Circle Holdings, patients had a very low opinion of the hospital and the care it provided. Now, this perception is dramatically improved: “Patient satisfaction has risen to 85 per cent, placing Hinchingbrooke in the top six of the East of England’s 46 hospitals.”

I took a look at the UK Daily Mail article and found an interesting section:

Patient satisfaction has risen to 85 per cent, placing Hinchingbrooke in the top six of the East of England’s 46 hospitals. The feedback is calculated by asking families and patients whether they would recommend the hospital, then weighting the answers compared to local peers.

Previously the trust was among the lowest ranking for satisfaction.

Figures also show that Hinchingbrooke has risen from being one of the worst performing trusts to one of the best under the private firm’s management.When Circle took over, the hospital was consistently near the bottom of the 46 trusts, with many patients waiting more than four hours in A&E.

It now tops the list for short waiting times, seeing 98.2 per cent of patients within the required window.
The hospital also ranks fifth for the proportion of patients with suspected cancer having tests within a fortnight.

Before the takeover it had missed targets every month since June 2010.

It now treats 89 per cent of cancer patients within 62 days, beating the 85 per cent target.

Circle saved millions of pounds a year by cutting out arduous paperwork and middle management.

Under the former ownership, a lengthy form had to be filled out every time a lightbulb needed changing, in a process that often took more than a week.

The group, which runs independent hospitals in Reading and Bath, inherited debts of £39million with the project.

The hospital had been expected to lose £10million last year, but this has been whittled down to  £3.7million by the Circle group.

It made up the deficit from its own coffers, rather than taxpayer funds, and is expected to break even in the current year.

Do you think that we might consider privatizing Medicaid and Medicare, since we know that privatization is good for health care consumers and taxpayers? Of course not, because privatization is bad for politicians, who want to retain control of health care. Privatization is good, but we’re not going to get it unless we vote the socialists out.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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