Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Obama’s new budget adds $8 trillion to the debt over the next 10 years

Obama 2013 Budget Debt Projection

Obama 2013 Budget Debt Projection

What does the liberal Associated Press think?

Excerpt:

Taking a pass on reining in government growth, President Obama unveiled a record $3.8 trillion election-year budget plan Monday, calling for stimulus-style spending on roads and schools and tax hikes on the wealthy to help pay the costs. The ideas landed with a thud on Capitol Hill.

Though the Pentagon and a number of Cabinet agencies would get squeezed, Obama would leave the spiraling growth of health care programs for the elderly and the poor largely unchecked. The plan claims $4 trillion in deficit savings over the coming decade, but most of it would be through tax increases Republicans oppose, lower war costs already in motion and budget cuts enacted last year in a debt pact with GOP lawmakers.

[...]By the administration’s reckoning, the deficit would drop to $901 billion next year – still requiring the government to borrow 24 cents of every dollar it spends – and would settle in the $600 billion-plus range by 2015.The deficit for the current budget year, which ends Sept. 30, would hit $1.3 trillion, a near record and the fourth straight year of trillion-plus red ink.

Obama’s budget blueprint reprises a long roster of prior proposals: raising taxes on couples making more than $250,000 a year; eliminating numerous tax breaks for oil and gas companies and approving a series of smaller tax and fee proposals. Similar proposals failed even when the Democrats controlled Congress.

The Pentagon would cut purchases of Navy ships and F-35 Joint Strike Fighters – and trim 100,000 troops from its rolls over coming years – while NASA would scrap two missions to Mars.

But there are spending increases, too: The Obama plan seeks $476 billion for transportation projects including roads, bridges and a much-criticized high-speed rail initiative.

The Heritage Foundation has more.

Excerpt:

Spending in the President’s budget rises inexorably from today’s $3.8 trillion to $5.8 trillion in 2022. Throughout the decade, outlays hold stubbornly above 22 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), more than twice the New Deal’s share of the economy in its peak years. In constant dollars, outlays are more than three times the peak of World War II.

In 2012, his budget results deliver a fourth consecutive annual deficit exceeding $1 trillion and then make it worse with another round of not-so-shovel-ready construction projects and government “investments” totaling $178 billion. Among these are the typical road, bridge, and school construction, but then they go alarmingly beyond the usual “infrastructure” arguments to fund teachers’ pay.

Obama’s future deficit reduction comes mainly from Budget Control Act cuts already in place, $848 billion in discredited phantom “savings” from the wind-down of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, taking credit for reductions in 2011 appropriations, and roughly $1.8 trillion in unnecessary tax increases on those earning above $250,000 and the oil and gas industry.

Yet even with the hefty tax increases and illusory savings, the President’s deficits over the next decade never fall below $575 billion (in 2018) and climb back to $704 billion (in 2022)—but again only assuming the tax increases and mystical savings cited above.

Debt held by the public in the President’s budget rises from 74.2 percent of GDP today to an economically hazardous 76.5 percent of GDP in 2022. These are historically high debt levels: the post–World War II average is just 43 percent. Moreover, the President’s debt estimates are low because of the unreal nature of much of his proposed deficit reduction.

Regarding the most critical fiscal challenge of the day—the need to restructure Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security—the President has once again taken a pass. By the middle of this century, these three programs and Obamacare will consume about 18 percent of GDP, soaking up all the historical average of federal tax revenue. The notion of “protecting” them through benign neglect only ensures their collapse, and the longer Congress and the President wait to address the problem, the more wrenching will be the consequences. But the President merely reruns previous ideas, such as more cuts to medical providers, ignoring the need for fundamental reform.

For other entitlements, the President repeats a range of mere chipping-around-the-edges proposals from last year’s budget, many of which are really tax or fee increases, not spending reductions.

In short, the President’s budget is the same worn-out collection of higher spending and higher taxes he has offered three times before—with the same inevitable result of more spending, higher taxes, and still more government debt.

Here’s a Republican reaction from Senator Bob Corker:

The libertarian Reason magazine has more budget charts.

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Indiana passes right-to-work law and is now open for business – and jobs

Central United States

Central United States

From GOP USA.

Excerpt:

Indiana is poised to become the first right-to-work state in more than a decade after the Republican-controlled House passed legislation on Wednesday banning unions from collecting mandatory fees from workers.

It is yet another blow to organized labor in the heavily unionized Midwest, which is home to many of the country’s manufacturing jobs. Wisconsin last year stripped unions of collective bargaining rights.

The vote came after weeks of protest by minority Democrats who tried various tactics to stop the bill. They refused to show up to debate despite the threat of fines that totaled $1,000 per day and introduced dozens of amendments aimed at delaying a vote. But conceding their tactics could not last forever because they were outnumbered, they finally agreed to allow the vote to take place.

The House voted 54-44 Wednesday to make Indiana the nation’s 23rd right-to-work state. The measure is expected to face little opposition in Indiana’s Republican-controlled Senate and could reach Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels’ desk shortly before the Feb. 5 Super Bowl in Indianapolis.

“This announces especially in the Rust Belt, that we are open for business here,” Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma said of the right-to-work proposal that would ban unions from collecting mandatory representation fees from workers.

Republicans recently attempted similar anti-union measures in other Rust-Belt states like Wisconsin and Ohio where they have faced massive backlash. Ohio voters overturned Gov. John Kasich’s labor measures last November and union activists delivered roughly 1 million petitions last week in an effort to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Indiana would mark the first win in 10 years for national right-to-work advocates who have pushed unsuccessfully for the measure in other states following a Republican sweep of statehouses in 2010. But few right-work states boast Indiana’s union clout, borne of a long manufacturing legacy.

Every time one state enacts a right-to-work law, it puts competitive pressure on other states. The reason why is because businesses are attracted to right-to-work states, and they will prefer to expand there, rather than in union-friendly states. In fact, some companies will just up and move to right-to-work states, leaving the union-friendly states with no employers at all.

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What is issue 2? Should you vote no on Ohio issue 2?

In the 2010 mid-term elections, Republican John Kasich won the governorship and promised to balance the state’s budget by reining in the state’s spending on salaries and benefits for public sector union employees. To accomplish this, the Ohio legislature pass Senate Bill 5. However, an effort is on the ballot to repeal the law, and Ohio voters will get a chance to keep or scrap the law on Tuesday, November 8th, 2011.

Here’s what Ohio’s State Issue 2 is all about:

Issue 2 makes some very fair and common sense requests of our government employees to give local communities the flexibility they need to get taxes and spending under control, while providing the essential services that we rely on.

  • It allows an employee’s job performance to be considered when determining compensation, rather than just awarding automatic pay increases based only on an employee’s length of service.
  • It asks that government employees pay at least 15 percent of the cost of their health insurance premium. That’s less than half of what private sector workers are currently paying.
  • It requires that government health care benefits apply equally to all government employees, whether they work in management or non-management positions. No special favors.
  • It asks our government employees to pay their own share of a generous pension contribution, rather than forcing taxpayers to pay both the employee and employer shares.
  • It keeps union bosses from protecting bad teachers and stops the outdated practice of laying off good teachers first just because they haven’t served long enough.
  • Finally, it preserves collective bargaining for government employees, but it also returns some basic control of our schools and services to the taxpayers who fund them, not the union bosses who thrive on their mismanagement.

Even under the reforms of State Issue 2, Ohio’s government employees will still receive better pay, better health care and better retirement benefits, on average, than the vast majority of Ohioans who work in the private sector.

There are a number of myths going around about Issue 2, and it’s important to set the record straight, so I’ll do that below.

Ohio Average Pay: Public vs. Private

Ohio Average Pay: Public Unions vs. Private

Myths and truths about Ohio State Issue 2

Here’s a common myth:

State Issue 2 would “cut salaries and benefits.”

The truth:

Issue 2 would not cut salaries or benefits for any government employee. Employees would simply be asked to pay a modest share of their benefits, just like employees in the private sector do. For health care coverage, they would pay at least 15% of their overall plan. (Many local government employees currently pay less than 9% of their health care premium, while the average private sector worker pays upwards of 30%.) In addition, employees would be required to pay their personal share of a retirement plan (only 10%), rather than asking taxpayers to pay that share. That’s not too much to ask at a time when many private sector workers get no retirement benefit at all. Finally, Issue 2 requires that benefits apply equally to all public employees, so no one gets special treatment.

And another common myth:

State Issue 2 will eliminate government employee pensions.

The truth:

Government employees will still get a very generous pension benefit – an annual payment that averages their three highest annual salaries. That’s a pretty nice deal, when many private sector workers get no retirement benefit at all. State Issue 2 only ends a practice where some government union contracts require taxpayers to pick up the tab for BOTH the employer AND employee shares of a required pension contribution. In this economy, it’s simply not right to ask struggling taxpayers to foot the bill so government employees can get a free retirement. Issue 2 simply says government employees should pay their required share (10 percent) and taxpayers will contribute the employer share (14 percent).

Another myth:

State Issue 2 will cut teacher salaries.

The truth:

That’s one of the scare tactics government unions are using to turn people against these reforms. Nothing in Issue 2 determines salary levels. It only ends the practice of handing out automatic pay raises, or “step” increases, and longevity pay – or bonuses just for holding the job for a certain period of time. Issue 2 also asks that performance be added as a factor in teacher compensation, a goal President Barack Obama set out in his national education policy in 2009.

And another myth:

State Issue 2 will cost jobs

The truth:

Just the opposite is true. Ohio’s state and local tax burden ranks among the top third in the nation. As a result, companies large and small have left our state in pursuit of better tax incentives elsewhere, taking hundreds of thousands of jobs with them. If Ohio hopes to compete for new job growth, we have to make our state a more affordable place to live, work and do business. That starts with getting the cost of government under control so we can direct more of our limited resources into economic development, community revitalization and better schools.

More myths about Ohio State Issue 2 are corrected on this page.

Newspaper endorsements

So far, Issue 2 has been endorsed by several Ohio newspapers, including the biggest ones.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer:

The fiscal picture of local governments and school districts, especially, will improve as they are able to right-size their work forces and their expenditures on services. That will happen over time, not overnight, as new contracts are established.

Repeal SB 5, though, and it’s going to be awfully hard for local governments to manage their payrolls without resorting to larger-scale layoffs than would otherwise be necessary. And local governments will continue to be hamstrung by anti-merit seniority rules that lead to worker complacency and protect dead weight and time-servers.

Voting YES on Issue 2 will prevent layoffs by keeping public sector wages and benefits in line with what the private sector can afford to pay.

The Columbus Dispatch:

Despite the insistence of opponents, the effort to reform Ohio’s out-of-balance collective-bargaining law is not an expression of disrespect for or dissatisfaction with Ohio teachers, police officers, firefighters and other government employees. It is a much-needed attempt to restore control over public spending to the public officials elected to exercise that control.

It does not assert that public employees are worth less than the compensation they’re receiving, only that the compensation has grown faster than the public’s ability to pay for it.

[...]With more ability to control the escalation of salary and benefit costs, governments won’t be forced as often to impose layoffs, and might be able to afford to keep even more police and firefighters on the streets.

Again, no one is saying that public sector workers don’t matter – the question is whether we can afford to give them better wages and benefits than the private sector workers who are their customers and their employers. Public sector workers work for the public, and the public can only afford to pay so much.

Conclusion

Government employees are paid 43% more than private sector employees, in salary and benefits:

I think that people who care about the long-term prosperity of Ohio should vote “YES” on Issue 2 to make public and private salaries and benefits MORE EQUAL. Ohio is facing enormous economic pressure from the global recession, and everyone has to make sacrifices. Now is not the time for public sector workers to insist on higher wages and benefits, especially when the private sector workers who pay their salaries don’t make as much money, nor do they get the pensions, nor do they get the better job security. Ohio voters can certainly go back and renegotiate union salaries and benefits when Ohio is out of the recession.

Click here to learn more about Ohio State Issue 2.

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New study: total compensation of public school teachers is 52% greater than fair market value

Whenever advocates of greater spending on education try to argue that teachers are not paid enough, they always compare teachers to other workers to other workers in terms of years spent in college. On that view, a software engineer with 6 years of college (B.S. and M.S. in computer science) is the same as an English teacher with 6 years of “Education college” (B.Ed and M.Ed in education). But is the ability to write code to perform real-time commercial transactions in a distributed database environment really deserving of the same total compensation as teaching 6-year olds how to read Dr. Seuss books? Is the supply of each skill set the same? Is the demand for each skill set the same? What should the price of each kind of labor be?

Let’s see what this new study from the American Enterprise Institute says.

Excerpt:

The teaching profession is crucial to America’s society and economy, but public-school teachers should receive compensation that is neither higher nor lower than market rates. Do teachers currently receive the proper level of compensation? Standard analytical approaches to this question compare teacher salaries to the salaries of similarly educated and experienced private-sector workers, and then add the value of employer contributions toward fringe benefits. These simple comparisons would indicate that public-school teachers are undercompensated. However, comparing teachers to non-teachers presents special challenges not accounted for in the existing literature.

First, formal educational attainment, such as a degree acquired or years of education completed, is not a good proxy for the earnings potential of school teachers. Public-school teachers earn less in wages on average than non-teachers with the same level of education, but teacher skills generally lag behind those of other workers with similar “paper” qualifications.

Here’s what the study shows:

  • The wage gap between teachers and non-teachers disappears when both groups are matched on an objective measure of cognitive ability rather than on years of education.
  • Public-school teachers earn higher wages than private- school teachers, even when the comparison is limited to secular schools with standard curriculums.
  • Workers who switch from non-teaching jobs to teaching jobs receive a wage increase of roughly 9 percent. Teachers who change to non-teaching jobs, on the other hand, see their wages decrease by roughly 3 percent. This is the opposite of what one would expect if teachers were underpaid.
  • Pension programs for public-school teachers are significantly more generous than the typical private sector retirement plan, but this generosity is hidden by public-sector accounting practices that allow lower employer contributions than a private-sector plan promising the same retirement benefits.
  • Most teachers accrue generous retiree health benefits as they work, but retiree health care is excluded from Bureau of Labor Statistics benefits data and thus frequently overlooked. While rarely offered in the private sector, retiree health coverage for teachers is worth roughly an additional 10 percent of wages.
  • Job security for teachers is considerably greater than in comparable professions. Using a model to calculate the welfare value of job security, we find that job security for typical teachers is worth about an extra 1 percent of wages, rising to 8.6 percent when considering that extra job security protects a premium paid in terms of salaries and benefits.

And they conclude:

We conclude that public-school teacher salaries are comparable to those paid to similarly skilled private sector workers, but that more generous fringe benefits for public-school teachers, including greater job security, make total compensation 52 percent greater than fair market levels, equivalent to more than $120 billion overcharged to taxpayers each year.

Well, maybe teachers are overpaid – but that would be OK if they were somehow super intelligent and productive.

Are teachers intelligent?

CBS Moneywatch explains what the research shows about teachers.

Excerpt:

Research over the years has indicated that education majors, who enter college with the lowest average SAT scores, leave with the highest grades.   Some of academic evidence documenting easy A’s for future teachers goes back more than 50 years!

The latest damning report on the ease of majoring in education comes from research at the University of Missouri, my alma mater.  The study, conducted by economist Cory Koedel shows that education majors receive “substantially higher” grades than students in every other department.

Koedel examined the grades earned by undergraduates during the 2007-2008 school year at three large state universities that include sizable education programs — University of Missouri, Miami (OH) University and Indiana University.  The researcher compared the grades earned by education majors with the grades earned by students in 12 other majors including biology, economics, English, history, philosophy, mathematics, chemistry, psychology and sociology.

Education majors enjoyed grade point averages that were .5 to .8 grade points higher than students in the other college majors. At the University of Missouri, for instance, the average education major has a 3.80 GPA versus 2.99 GPA (science, math, econ majors), 3.12 GPA (social science majors) and 3.16 GPA (humanities majors).

So it is easy for teachers with lower SAT scores to get much higher grades than other applicants to non-teaching programs with much higher SAT scores. It doesn’t sound like the smartest people go to teachers college. Nor does it sound as if they learn anything very challenging when they are there.

Are teachers doing a good job of teaching useful skills?

CNN sheds some light on how well teachers perform.

Excerpt:

Last week, the College Board dealt parents, teachers and the education world a serious blow. According to its latest test results, “SAT reading scores for the high school class of 2011 were the lowest on record, and combined reading and math scores fell to their lowest point since 1995.”

The reading scores, which stand at 497, are noticeably lower than just six years ago, when they stood at 508. And it’s just the second time in the last 20 years that reading scores have dropped so precipitously in a single year.

[...]The 2011 budget for the Department of Education is estimated to top $70 billion, while overall spending on public elementary and secondary education is about $600 billion a year. By comparison, in 1972, before the Department of Education even existed, SAT critical reading scores for college-bound seniors were above 525, more than 20 points higher than they are today, while today’s math scores are only slightly better than in 1972.

So, not only are these highly-paid teachers less intelligent (on average) than other college applicants, but they also fail to educate our children properly. And we are forced to pay them, through taxes, regardless of how they perform. Our children who are suffering from this failed monopoly.

Do teacher unions improve teacher quality?

And do you know who protects bad teachers from being fired, and prevents good teachers from being paid more?

This is why we need to abolish the federal Department of Education and teacher unions. Why are we paying these people ridiculous salaries and benefits to fail our children?

Must-see videos on education policy

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Budget guru Paul Ryan discusses the economy at the Heritage Foundation

My favorite GOP ideas-man speaking at my favorite think tank. Here’s the full transcript courtesy of National Review.

Excerpt:

The Treasury Department’s latest study on income mobility in America found that during the ten-year period starting in 1996, roughly half of the taxpayers who started in the bottom 20 percent had moved up to a higher income group by 2005.Meanwhile, half of all taxpayers ended up in a different income group at the end of ten years. Many moved up, and some moved down, but economic growth resulted in rising incomes for most people over this period.

Another recent survey of over 500 successful entrepreneurs found that 93 percent came from middle-class or lower-class backgrounds. The majority were the first in their families to launch a business.

Their stories are the American story: Millions of immigrants fled from the closed societies of the Old World to the security of equal rights in this land of upward mobility.

Telling Americans they are stuck in their current station in life, that they are victims of circumstances beyond their control, and that government’s role is to help them cope with it – well, that’s not who we are. That’s not what we do.

Our Founding Fathers rejected this mentality. In societies marked by class structure, an elite class made up of rich and powerful patrons supplies the needs of a large client underclass that toils, but cannot own. The unfairness of closed societies is the kindling for class warfare, where the interests of “capital” and “labor” are perpetually in conflict. What one class wins, the other loses.

The legacy of this tradition can still be seen in Europe today: Top-heavy welfare states have replaced the traditional aristocracies, and masses of the long-term unemployed are locked into the new lower class.

The United States was destined to break out of this bleak history. Our future would not be staked on traditional class structures, but on civic solidarity. Gone would be the struggle of class against class.

Instead, Americans would work, compete, and co-operate in an open market, climb the ladder of opportunity, and keep the fruits of their efforts.

Self-government and the rule of law would secure our equal, God-given rights. Our political and economic systems – rooted in freedom and responsibility – would reward, and thus cultivate, traditional virtues.

Given that the President’s policies have moved us closer to the European model, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that his class-based rhetoric has followed suit.

We shouldn’t be surprised… but we have every right to be disappointed. Instead of appealing to the hope and optimism that were hallmarks of his first campaign, he has launched his second campaign by preying on the emotions of fear, envy, and resentment.

This has the potential to be just as damaging as his misguided policies. Sowing social unrest and class resentment makes America weaker, not stronger. Pitting one group against another only distracts us from the true sources of inequity in this country – corporate welfare that enriches the powerful, and empty promises that betray the powerless.

Ironically, equality of outcome is a form of inequality – one that is based on political influence and bureaucratic favoritism.

That’s the real class warfare that threatens us: A class of bureaucrats and connected crony capitalists trying to rise above the rest of us, call the shots, rig the rules, and preserve their place atop society. And their gains will come at the expense of working Americans, entrepreneurs, and that small businesswoman who has the gall to take on the corporate chieftain.

It’s disappointing that this President’s actions have exacerbated this form of class warfare in so many ways:

While the EPA is busy punishing commercially competitive sources of energy, a class of bureaucrats at the Department of Energy has been acting like the world’s worst venture capital fund, spending recklessly on politically favored alternatives. While the unemployment rate remains stuck above 9 percent, a class of bureaucrats at the National Labor Relations Board is threatening hundreds of jobs by suing an American employer for politically motivated reasons. And while millions of Americans are left wondering whether their employers will drop their health insurance because of the new health care law, a class of bureaucrats at HHS has handed out over 1,400 waivers to those firms and unions with the political connections to lobby for them.

These actions starkly highlight the difference between the two parties that lies at the heart of the matter: Whether we are a nation that still believes in equality of opportunity, or whether we are moving away from that, and towards an insistence on equality of outcome.

If you believe in the former, you follow the American Idea that justice is done when we level the playing field at the starting line, and rewards are proportionate to merit and effort.

If you believe in the latter kind of equality, you think most differences in wealth and rewards are matters of luck or exploitation, and that few really deserve what they have.

That’s the moral basis of class warfare – a false morality that confuses fairness with redistribution, and promotes class envy instead of social mobility.

When you think of talented Republicans who will one day be President, you think of people like Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz and Josh Mandel. It’s to take a look at these guys before they become famous. Paul Ryan is the best we have on the budget – he is universally respected. And, he is also 100% pro-life and 100% solid on foreign policy. You don’t have to pick and choose with Paul Ryan – you get everything. All of the above.

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