Category Archives: Obama

No Grit

I want True Grit to win best picture. That movie showed that when you have someone on your side who is a determined, anything is possible. Tonight, Obama didn’t show any grit. Instead, it was more of a blunt professor telling the class what needs to be done.

Obama spoke about a lot of policy areas both Democrats and Republicans can agree on. The one that stood out was the spending freeze. You can’t say it won’t reduce the deficit (because it does), and elected officials can’t complain about a project being cut that their district or state needs. Other than that, there wasn’t much.

The speech was close to 7,000 words and there were hardly any specifics. He spoke broadly about cutting federal spending, energy policy, and the nations infrastructure. But he didn’t say what he wanted to do about it, only what that he wanted something done.

When talking about creating jobs, he spoke about working with businesses and reducing red tape. Clear reversals in tone with a new economic team and Chief of Staff coming in. But nothing to get excited about.

When it came to health care, he opened the door to make changes to the law. That is despite the fact when American’s find out what is actually in the law, they like it.

A part of me is disappointed that the administration took this route. I like the big speeches that fired me up to go campaign and work for change. I liked the feeling Obama was a guy who wanted to do big things, but none of that was shown tonight.

Instead, Obama was kept expectations low. If Congress passes anything that he can sign into law it is an automatic victory for him. There is an upside to any policy and he can use the bully pulpit to say what he is signing (a bipartisan piece of legislation) louder then anyone else in Washington.

Was it the right way to go. Probably. It’s safe and he is worried about winning re-election in 2012. What worries me is that he seems to have forgotton why people got off their couches to vote for him. They were excited about what they thought he could accomplish.

I did not see a person who I would hire to help me seek revenge for the death of a person I loved. In 2008 the left took revenge on the Republicans, but tonight, Obama showed No Grit.

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Filed under Obama, President Obama, SOTU, State of the Union, True Grit

Teaching to Teach

Out of the several issues President Obama will have to tackle these next few years, renewing the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Law will be one of the toughest. One would think that a piece of legislation that Senator Kennedy pushed through Congress, and was signed by President George W. Bush, that in this new bipartisan era it wouldn’t have much problem getting through. But then again, the first vote to be taken in this new Congress is the “job-killing” repeal of the health care law.

The biggest problem President Obama will have trying to re-authorize NCLB will be that both Democrats and Republicans have issues with it, and some are legitimate. When the law was first enacted funding for NCLB was non-existent. States that were trying to implement its policies were unable because there was not enough money in the federal budget. This lead to the second problem: in order to qualify for what little funding there was, states had to device a way which would assess schools. The law never said that standardized tests had to be implemented, but it was the cheapest way to qualify for the federal money.

Since Arne Duncan took over the Department of Education, he devised a new way for states to compete called Race to the Top. The difference here was States had more standards to meet. Yes students still had to take tests, but more charter schools had to be created, and assessments had to be submitted. But in every race there’s always a loser. While most states changed their education system in order compete for the millions of dollars being dangled in front of them, most states did not receive any money, or not as much money as they thought they would or should get. When the second round came up, the states that got shunned threatened not to participate and derail Obama and Duncan’s image of how schools should be run.

I have no problem with using money to get what you want. It’s done all the time. Whether it is to stop people from drinking and driving, regulate pollution in streams and rivers, or building new wind turbines for energy, this is how our current government works and has for a long time. The problem I do have with this policy is that it won’t help children learn.

Making students take tests won’t get students to understand what they are being tested on. Where Secretary Duncan and school Superintendents around the country should focus its efforts, is figuring out the best methods to teach teachers how to teach, and the best practices that enable students to learn. Then, incentives can be given to states based on what we know works, instead of assuming a one shoe fits all approach. Which brings me to my second point.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have been studying which teaching practices work best. One of the key findings is that smaller classrooms produce better outcomes for students. Reason being; the teacher is able to give those students the attention they need. But if you’re going to give more money to states to hire more teachers and build more schools, you have to make sure the teachers being hired actually know how to teach. The Gates Foundation is looking at what the best teachers are doing now, so teachers of the future can learn from them.

One of the recommendations by the Gates Foundation is to take the students that are seriously struggling and put them into other areas where they can get the help they need. They are not specific on which students they are, only that the students who will be moved should be based on the criteria they develop. But let’s assume the students that are moved have learning disabilities.

In the past, I have written about learning disabilities, and while the research being done will indirectly help teachers teach these students, it is still not an issue that is being dealt with. Even the best teachers will have to adjust their methods so the student with a disability can properly learn the material. But shifting them to another room is not the answer. As long as they are willing to work hard, students with disabilities can be in the same classroom as his or her peers, but putting them in another room will only make them feel as if they are below everyone else.

There is no reason why Congress needs to politicize this issue. When NCLB was first enacted in 2001, there were obviously aspects of the bill both liberals and conservatives liked, otherwise, it would not have passed. In the State of the Union Address, President Obama should talk about the success this bill has had since it was first enacted and how it is a way to enact changes to a system that desperately needs it.

Many more studies need to be conducted, and this post does not even begin to scratch the surface of what is wrong with our education system. But once there is a compilation of methods that are proven to effectively teach students, incentives should be given to states to teach, and teach those policies to its teachers.

 

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Filed under Arne Duncan, Democrats, Education, Gates Foundation, Leanring Disabilities, NCLB, No Child Left Behing, Obama, President Obama, Republicans, Teach, Teachers

Obama Should Go Nuclear

This whole talk of compromise is bogus. President Obama was able to pass the tax cuts, don’t ask don’t tell, and START, because the public was on his side. Polling consistently showed the American people were in favor of these two issues, and Republicans didn’t want to look like they were not representing the people before they official gained power. But it will be a lot tougher the next two years and it will be important for Obama to pick specific issues that he can claim victory on.

Controlling the White House gives Democrats the ability to set the agenda and control the conversation. That means it is even more important to pick issues that they know they can win political points with since there will be so few of them coming up. By Obama saying he received a shellacking in this election cycle, he down played any new victories that may occur in the future, that way when he does get his initiatives passed through Congress, it is a bigger victory.

If the Republicans goal is to make Obama a one term president, there is no reason to give them an inch of breathing space. The energy legislation that passed the House this past term isn’t going anywhere. While the bill received bipartisan support, it was still a close vote and very contentious. But there are a lot of elements in it that both sides can vote for. One of them is the expansion of nuclear energy.

Obama has consistently said he is in favor of creating more nuclear sites in the United States, and many Republicans have had this on their agenda. The list includes John McCain, Mitch McConnell, and soon to be the Chairwomen of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Lisa Murkowski. There will be plenty of quotes that can be used to contradict what these Senators will be saying if Obama decides to push this issue. But it is one that he needs to use the bully pulpit in order to get what he wants.

The microphone is going to be set on high for this one too. There are a lot of Not In My Back Yard issues when it comes to nuclear power. People either think of Chernobyl or Three Mile Island and do not want an instance such as that to effect their communities. Both of these accidents were caused by human error, unlike the BP oil spill which was caused by human error. That’s why the Department of Justice is suing BP believing the disaster could have been avoided. More regulation will be needed for the new nuclear plants, but it is hard to make an argument that current plants and refineries don’t need it either.

One of the factors involved with using nuclear technology is where to store the waste that comes from using the material. But while there are currently 104 nuclear power plants operating in the United States, the amount of material that would have to be stored would cover seven yards on a football field. The technology for storing this material has been improved insurmountable since the last two nuclear accidents.

While building new nuclear plants are expensive, there is still plenty of money to be made from building them, particularly with the right incentives that the federal government can provide. In the meantime, the money that is being spent will create jobs. That’s why other countries like England are planning to build more of them. And I haven’t gotten into the environmental benefits of using more nuclear power.

One of the reasons Obama had such a hard time with the media is because he was not specific enough in what he wanted. The public option was the prime example. The official position was “I’m in favor of a public option, but it does not have to be in the final bill for the bill to be effective.” While policy junkies or people who work in the health sector may have understood what he was saying, it was confusing. And it didn’t allow him to own the issue and take credit for the pieces of legislation that will benefit people.

The White House needs to keep it short and understandable. Not everyone is a physicist and kept up on the news coming out of the nuclear sector. Next year Obama is going to have to stop trying to teach, and needs to preach instead.

 

 

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Filed under Carbon dioxide, Energy, Environment, global warming, Jobs, Nuclear, Obama, Poitics

>Put Up or Shut Up

>This health care debate gets more and more exciting every day. Now it’s the Senate’s turn. Who needs Pacquiao vs. Cotto when you get to see Harry Reid whipping the rest of the Democrats to vote for his bill? The best part is that the vote is going to be on another Saturday night. Prime time! There’s nothing else on Saturday anyway, and I guarantee you the networks are pissed they won’t be able to charge for advertisements on C-SPAN when the vote is taking place.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the legislation would reduce the federal deficit by $127 billion over ten years. That’s also probably a conservative estimate based on how CBO actually calculates the figures. Taxes are also going to be raised by the insurance companies who charge more then $8,500 for individuals and $23,000 for families, which will help key costs low.

I have to admit that I’m a little disappointed in the name. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. That’s boring. The bill should be called Put Up or Shut Up.

In 2006 Republicans lost control of Congress mainly because they didn’t get anything done, they didn’t get their act together. Some Democratic Senators (Lieberman, Landrieu, Lincoln, and Nelson) are threatening to not even let the bill come to a vote. If that happens it won’t just look bad for Reid and the rest of the Democratic leadership, it sends the message to the American people Democrats don’t have confidence in their own policies. And if they don’t, why should the the American people?

The bill to be voted on Saturday has a public option which states can opt-out of. And a public option is the best way to control costs, the majority of the American people know this. The foundations are in both the Senate and House version for the Democrats to be confident in the bill.

When Vice President Biden was on The Daily Show the other night, he was asked, and I’m paraphrasing, “Why is it that the Republicans are able to stop legislation when they are in the minority, and the Democrats can’t get anything passed when they have the majority?” Biden’s reply: “That’s a good point.”

So Democrats, it’s time to put up or shut up, because that’s what this bill represents. You can either show the American people you are capable of running the country or you’re not. The outcome of this bill will be the answer.

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Filed under Democrats, Healthcare, Lieberman, Obama, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Reid, Republicans, Senate