Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Nancy Pelosi’s brother-in-law gets $737M of taxpayers’ money to build solar plant

From the UK Daily Mail.

Excerpt:

Nancy Pelosi is facing accusations of cronyism after a solar energy project, which her brother-in-law has a stake in, landed a $737 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, despite the growing Solyndra scandal.

The massive loan agreement is raising new concerns about the use of taxpayers’ money as vast sums are invested in technology similar to that of the doomed energy project.

The investment has intensified the debate over the effectiveness of solar energy as a major power source.

The SolarReserve project is backed by an energy investment fund where the Minority Leader’s brother-in-law Ronald Pelosi is second in command.

PCG Clean Energy & Technology Fund (East) LLC is listed as one of the investors in the project that has been given the staggering loan, which even dwarfs that given to failed company Solyndra.

Other investors include one of the major investors in Solyndra, which is run by one of the directors of Solyndra.

Steve Mitchell, who served on the board of directors at the bankrupt energy company, is also managing director of Argonaut Private Equity, which has invested in the latest project.

Since Solyndra has filed for bankruptcy has been asked to testify about the goings on at the firm by two members of the House and ‘asked to provide documents to Congress’.

[...]The project approval came as part of $1 billion in new loans to green energy companies yesterday.

Did they learn anything from Solyndra? No:

‘The administration’s flagship project Solyndra is bankrupt and being investigated by the FBI, the promised jobs never materialised, and now the Department of Energy is preparing to rush out nearly $5 billion in loans in the final 48 hours before stimulus funds expire — that’s nearly $105 million every hour that must be finalised until the deadline,’ said Florida representative Cliff Stearns, who is chairman of the investigations subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Since Nancy Pelosi took over federal spending in January 2007, the national debt has increased from $8.5 trillion to about $17.5 trillion. That’s NINE TRILLION dollars in new spending. And much of it just handed off to the people and groups who got the Democrats elected 2008 and 2012.

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

Graduate students with non-STEM degrees increasingly dependent on welfare programs

From the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Excerpt:

Melissa Bruninga-Matteau, a medieval-history Ph.D. and adjunct professor who gets food stamps: “I’ve been able to make enough to live on. Until now.”

“I am not a welfare queen,” says Melissa Bruninga-Matteau.

That’s how she feels compelled to start a conversation about how she, a white woman with a Ph.D. in medieval history and an adjunct professor, came to rely on food stamps and Medicaid. Ms. Bruninga-Matteau, a 43-year-old single mother who teaches two humanities courses at Yavapai College, in Prescott, Ariz., says the stereotype of the people receiving such aid does not reflect reality. Recipients include growing numbers of people like her, the highly educated, whose advanced degrees have not insulated them from financial hardship.

“I find it horrifying that someone who stands in front of college classes and teaches is on welfare,” she says.

Ms. Bruninga-Matteau grew up in an upper-middle class family in Montana that valued hard work and saw educational achievement as the pathway to a successful career and a prosperous life. She entered graduate school at the University of California at Irvine in 2002, idealistic about landing a tenure-track job in her field. She never imagined that she’d end up trying to eke out a living, teaching college for poverty wages, with no benefits or job security.

Ms. Bruninga-Matteau always wanted to teach. She started working as an adjunct in graduate school. This semester she is working 20 hours each week, prepping, teaching, advising, and grading papers for two courses at Yavapai, a community college with campuses in Chino Valley, Clarkdale, Prescott, Prescott Valley, and Sedona. Her take-home pay is $900 a month, of which $750 goes to rent. Each week, she spends $40 on gas to get her to the campus; she lives 43 miles away, where housing is cheaper.

Ms. Bruninga-Matteau does not blame Yavapai College for her situation but rather the “systematic defunding of higher education.” In Arizona last year, Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, signed a budget that cut the state’s allocation to Yavapai’s operating budget from $4.3-million to $900,000, which represented a 7.6 percent reduction in the college’s operating budget. The cut led to an 18,000-hour reduction in the use of part-time faculty like Ms. Bruninga-Matteau.

“The media gives us this image that people who are on public assistance are dropouts, on drugs or alcohol, and are irresponsible,” she says. “I’m not irresponsible. I’m highly educated. I have a whole lot of skills besides knowing about medieval history, and I’ve had other jobs. I’ve never made a lot of money, but I’ve been able to make enough to live on. Until now.”

She’s irresponsible, because she expects the people who choose to study rather difficult and unpleasant subjects like nursing and computer science and economics to pay for her lifestyle through taxation and “higher education funding”. I do think it’s important to point out that the main driver of higher tuition is increasing government funding of education, and that this increasing funding of higher education is nothing but corporate welfare.

Excerpt:

The most obvious way that colleges might capture federal student aid is by raising tuition. Research to date has been inconclusive, but Stephanie Riegg Cellini of George Washington University and Claudia Goldin of Harvard have provided compelling new analysis. Cellini and Goldin looked at for-profit colleges, utilizing the key distinction that only some for-profit schools are eligible for federal aid. Riegg and Goldin find that that aid-eligible institutions “charge much higher tuition … across all states, samples, and specifications,” even when controlling for the content and quality of courses. The 75 percent difference in tuition between aid-eligible and ineligible for-profit colleges — an amount comparable to average per-student federal assistance — suggests that “institutions may indeed raise tuition to capture the maximum grant aid available.”

Here are some of the comments that I posted in a Facebook discussion about the CHE story:

I know that some may disagree with me, but this is why people need to focus on STEM fields and stay away from artsy stuff and Ph.Ds in general. We are in a recession. Trade school and STEM degrees only until things improve.

Also, no single motherhood by choice. Get married before you have children, and make sure you vet the husband carefully for his ability to protect, provide, commit and lead on moral and spiritual issues. This woman is not a victim. She chose her life, and the rest of us are paying for it. Nice tattoos by the way – that will really help when she’s looking for a job.

I am actually better at English than computer science, but I find myself with a BS and MS in computer science. We don’t get to do what we like. We do what we have to in order to be effective as Christians. According to the Bible, men have an obligation to not engage in premarital sex, and to marry before having children, and to provide for their families, or they have denied the faith. I would like to have studied English, but the Bible says no way.

I have no problem with people who can make a career out of the arts, like a Robert George or a William Lane Craig. But you can’t just go crazy. And I think men have a lot less freedom than women to choose their major, we have the obligation to be providers and we have to be selected by women based on whether we can fulfill that role (among other roles).

Women have more freedom because they are not saddled with the provider role like men are. However, I think that the times now are different than before. There is more discrimination against conservatives on campus in non-STEM fields and fewer non-STEM jobs in a competitive global economy. The safest fields are things like petroleum engineering, software engineering, etc.

If [people who major in the humanities] can make a living and support a family without relying on government-controlled redistribution of wealth, then I salute and encourage you. If you rely on the government, know that this money is being taken away from those who are doing things they don’t like at all in order to be independent and self-reliant. It is never good to be dependent on government. That money comes from people like me.

In response to an artsy challenger:

I am happy to be scorned by those who make poor choices so long as I can have my money back from them so that I can pursue my dreams. I didn’t see any of these artsy people in the lab at 4 AM completing their operating system class assignments, nor do I see them here working overtime on the weekend in the office. They can say anything and feel anything they want, and write plays and poetry all about their feelings, too. Just give me the money I earned back first. It’s not their money. They have no right to it.

One person asked why I was “always winter, never Christmas”, and I replied:

It is Christmas for the Christians who I send books and DVDs to, as well as for the Christian scholars I support, and the Christian conferences, debates and lectures I underwrite across the world. Unfortunately, every dollar taken from me is a dollar less for that Ph.D tuition of a Christian debater, a dollar less for the flight of that Christian apologetics speaker, a dollar less for that textbook for that Christian biology student, and a dollar less for the flowers being sent to that post-abortive woman who I counseled who is now in law school. I have a need for the money I earn, and when it’s sent to Planned Parenthood to pay for abortions by the government, my plan to serve God suffers. And finally, should I ever get married, I would like my wife to have the option of staying home with the children and even homeschooling them. That costs money. Somehow, I feel that given the choice between my homeschooling wife and the public school unions, the government will choose to give my money to the unions. Just a hunch.

I’m not Santa Claus – I have goals for the money I earn.

I think that people should go into the humanities when they are serious about making a career of it and can get the highest grades. But if they are coasting and only getting Bs and Cs and not paying attention in class, then drop out and go to trade school. Don’t complain later when you can’t find a job. STEM careers pay the most.

Top-earning degrees / college majors

Top-earning degrees / college majors

Here’s my previous post on the woman who accumulated $185,000 of student debt studying the humanities and is likewise demanding handouts and claiming not to be responsible.

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

Obama administration decides to exempt Obamacare from fraud prevention rules

From the radically left-wing New York Times, of all places.

Excerpt:

The Affordable Care Act is the biggest new health care program in decades, but the Obama administration has ruled that neither the federal insurance exchange nor the federal subsidies paid to insurance companies on behalf of low-income people are “federal health care programs.”

The surprise decision, disclosed last week, exempts subsidized health insurance from a law that bans rebates, kickbacks, bribes and certain other financial arrangements in federal health programs, stripping law enforcement of a powerful tool used to fight fraud in other health care programs, like Medicare.

The main purpose of the anti-kickback law, as described by federal courts in scores of Medicare cases, is to protect patients and taxpayers against the undue influence of money on medical decisions.

Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, disclosed her interpretation of the law in a letter to Representative Jim McDermott, Democrat of Washington, who had asked her views. She did not explain the legal rationale for her decision, which followed a spirited debate within the administration.

It’s all exempt from oversight laws:

Most of the buyers are expected to be eligible for subsidies to make insurance more affordable. The subsidies, paid directly to insurers from the United States Treasury, start in January and are expected to total more than $1 trillion over 10 years.

Ms. Sebelius said the Health and Human Services Department “does not consider” the subsidies to be federal health care programs. She reached the same conclusion with respect to federal and state exchanges, built with federal money, and with respect to “federally funded consumer assistance programs,” including the counselors, known as navigators, who help people shop for insurance and enroll in coverage through the exchanges.

What could go wrong? What could go wrong if the government hires “federal consumer assistants” like ACORN workers and other “community organizers” in order to administer federal subsidies? I think it will be fine. It will all work out great.

Oh, wait. I suppose that it’s possible that something like this might happen:

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) spent almost $29 million to cover Medicare Part D prescription drugs for 4,139 individuals “unlawfully present” in the U.S. and thus ineligible to receive federal health care benefits, according to an audit by Daniel Levinson, inspector general of the Department of Health & Human Services.

[...]CMS “inappropriately accepted 279,056 PDE [prescription drug event] records with unallowable gross drug costs totaling $28,990,718” between 2009 and 2011, Levinson reported. Total federal expenditures under Medicare Part D during that same two-year time period came to $227 billion.

Medicare Parts A and B cover hospitalization, skilled nursing care, doctor visits, and other medical services and supplies. The IG previously reported in January that CMS had also paid $91.6 million to health care providers to cover 2,600 ineligible illegal aliens.

Now failure like this could never take place in the private sector, because companies would go out of business. But in the government, they just borrow a trillion or two more from your children and call it even. That’s why we should never let the government get involved in things that are best handled by free trades between buyers and multiple sellers who must compete with each other. Health care is not something you hand off to a monopoly. At least, not if you expect transparency, affordability and quality.

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

New study: Half of children born last year will see their parents split by age 15

Dina tweeted this post from the UK Daily Mail.

Excerpt:

Children born last year are more likely than any previous generation to see their parents split up, research suggests.

Nearly half will experience family breakdown, according to a report by the Marriage Foundation think tank.

Its researchers estimate that 354,000 out of the 729,674 children born in England and Wales in 2012 will have parents who are separated by the time they reach the age of 15.

The report also suggests that married couples are much more likely to stay together than those who are unmarried.

The vast majority of children whose parents will still be together by their mid-teens will have a mother and father who are married, the report said. Only 5 per cent will have unmarried parents.

Harry Benson, of the Marriage Foundation, said: ‘We continually hear about divorce rates shooting up and causing the exponential rise in family breakdown, but this is demonstrably not the case.

‘The percentage of marriages ending in divorce has actually fallen since 2005 to 42 per cent. For all marriages lasting over ten years, the divorce rate has barely changed since the 1960s.

‘It is the declining rates of marriage which provide the only conceivable explanation of the doubling of family breakdown since the 1980s.

‘Of the teenagers not living with both parents, just 32 per cent of cases involved divorce.’

Last week a report by the  chief inspector of schools Sir Michael Wilshaw linked social problems in Britain to bad parenting. He criticised ‘hollowed-out and fragmented families’ where parents suffer a ‘poverty of accountability’.

Sir Michael said many children were ‘alienated’ from their fathers, and warned of social problems resulting from ‘making excuses’ for bad parents.

‘Some people will tell you that social breakdown is the result of material poverty – it’s more than this,’ he said.

‘These children lack more than money: They lack parents who take responsibility for seeing them raised well. It is this poverty of accountability which costs them.

‘These children suffer because they are not given clear rules or boundaries, have few secure or safe attachments at home, and little understanding of the difference between right and wrong behaviour.’

Findings from the Centre for Social Justice have shown as many as one million children are growing up without a father.

I think that if we really want children to have what they need, then we have to take a very strong position on the tolerance and non-judgmentalism that is so popular among the social left today. Because we are tolerant and non-judgmental, 53 million unborn children are dead. Because we are tolerant and non-judgmental, a record number of children are being raised without their mother or their father (or both). Because we are tolerant and non-judgmental, children are being saddled with the costs of fixing the results of irresponsibility decisions made by adults. Because we are tolerant and non-judgmental, we have run up a $17 trillion dollar debt so that the President can congratulate himself on how generous he is by spending money that other people earned (or will have to earn).

Maybe we need to stop thinking about being liked by our peers and start thinking about doing what’s right for children – born and unborn. A good first step would be to view anyone who espouses moral relativism as an evil, destructive, selfish and foolish person. When a woman brags to you about how she doesn’t judge anyone, you should look at her as someone immoral who cannot see the difference between policies/choices that harm children, and policies/choices that help them. At the very least, you should never marry someone who supports redefining marriage to include no-fault divorce and same-sex marriage. You should never marry someone who supports paying people taxpayer money to have children out of wedlock.

If a person cannot see how natural marriage protects children, then don’t marry them. We need to shame people who don’t protect children. It doesn’t matter what they say to you in order to sound nice. It only matters that they won’t condemn things that are clearly wrong. That makes them a threat to children, and unsuitable for marriage.

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

Americans finding out the true costs of Obamacare

The Daily Caller has a sobering article about the true costs of Obamacare.

Excerpt:

Millions of Americans are receiving double-digit premium hikes. For many people under 30, their health insurance premiums are going up much more — by as much as 189 percent. What happened to candidate Barack Obama’s 2008 promise that every family’s health care costs would go down by $2,500 by the end of his first term? (Costs actually went up by $3,000.)

The Congressional Budget Office projects Obamacare will cost tens of billions more over the next decade than the agency projected just three years ago. Those increases were not budgeted for, and will add to massive deficits.

So much for the promise that the law “will not add one dime to the deficit.”

Millions of workers at places like Wendy’s and Olive Garden are now being preemptively reclassified as part-time, and an estimated 7 million to 20 million employees face the loss of workplace health benefits altogether.

So much for the oft-heard promise that “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.”

[...]Seniors were assured that the new system wouldn’t affect their benefits, despite Obamacare’s $716 billion in ten-year cuts to Medicare (to help pay for the new entitlement).

That promise was broken recently, when the Medicare agency issued surprise regulations cutting Medicare even more deeply than Congress had directed — cuts that target a popular and very successful part of Medicare, one that actually features consumer choice and competition, namely, Medicare Advantage (MA).

Seniors who opt into MA enjoy greater care coordination, disease management for chronic conditions, and on-call nurses available by phone. Those extra services — which in some cases mean the difference between life and death — are now slated for the chopping-block.

Rosemarie Battaglia will be among the millions of victims of these new regulations, which beginning April 1 will effectively shave MA plan payments by about 2 percentage points. On top of prior cuts enacted in Obamacare, that spells an 8 percent cut next year — a level higher than the profit margins for these plans.

Actuarial experts at the American Action Forum predict the cuts will cause between 2 and 5 million seniors to lose their MA benefits, and that MA recipients face health care cost increases averaging $2,235 a year.

When a President makes promises about economic policy, we shouldn’t believe him unless we have reasons to believe that he understands business and economics. We had no reason to believe that Obama understood economics. And, when given the reins of the economy, he’s proven that. Instead of electing people who sound nice in speeches, we should be electing people who have shown that they know how to solve the problems we’re facing in the economy. A track record of success at creating jobs, reducing the costs of health care, improving health care quality and choice, etc. should have counted for more than rhetoric. We chose the rhetoric and now we’re getting the screws.

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