Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Current Events - February 19, 2014

Our Decadent Elites

By Peggy Noonan
Watching Season 2 of “House of Cards.” Not to be a scold or humorless, but do Washington politicians understand how they make themselves look when they embrace the show and become part of its promotion by spouting its famous lines? Congressmen only work three days a week. Each shot must have taken two hours or so—the setup, the crew, the rehearsal, the learning the line. How do they have time for that? Why do they think it’s good for them?
“House of Cards” very famously does nothing to enhance Washington’s reputation. It reinforces the idea that the capital has no room for clean people. The earnest, the diligent, the idealistic, they have no place there. Why would powerful members of Congress align themselves with this message? Why do they become part of it? I guess they think they’re showing they’re in on the joke and hip to the culture. I guess they think they’re impressing people with their surprising groovelocity.
Or maybe they’re just stupid.
But it’s all vaguely decadent, no? Or maybe not vaguely. America sees Washington as the capital of vacant, empty souls, chattering among the pillars. Suggesting this perception is valid is helpful in what way?
I don’t understand why members of Congress, the White House and the media become cooperators in videos that sort of show that deep down they all see themselves as . . . actors. And good ones! In a phony drama. Meant I suppose to fool the rubes.
It’s all supposed to be amusing, supposed to show you’re an insider who sees right through this town. But I’m not sure it shows that.
We’re at a funny point in our political culture. To have judgment is to be an elitist. To have dignity is to be yesterday. To have standards is to be a hypocrite—you won’t always meet standards even when they’re your own, so why have them?

The Sneaky Tactic Some States Are Using Now That Parents Are Standing Up Against Common Core

 By Jason Howerton
As fed-up parents across the nation voice their staunch opposition to federal Common Core standards, several states are trying a new approach to appease them… by just changing the name in a “rebranding” effort.
In Iowa, Common Core is now referred to as “The Iowa Core” and as “Next Generation Sunshine State Standards” in Florida. Further, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed an executive order recently to scrub the “Common Core” name from their math and reading standards. Louisiana is also reportedly considering a name change
...There are only four states in the U.S. that haven’t adopted at least some Common Core standards.
Critics argue that Common Core, which was never voted on by Congress, promotes a one-size-fits-all approach to education and takes away control from teachers and local school systems. There have also been problems with Common Core “aligned” lessons and textbooks including liberal and progressive political messages.
Some Republicans, including Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee, have been longtime supporters of Common Core. Both agree that the name change is necessary because the term Common Core has become “toxic.”
“Rebrand it, refocus it, but don’t retreat,” Huckabee said at a recent meeting of the Council of Chief State School Officers.
Wright had this to say of the tactic: “Rebranding the Common Core does not change the fact that it is still a top-down, federally controlled approach to education that is untested and unproven. We know that Americans will not be fooled by dressing-up this failed initiative.”

How to Free the Housing Market from Government—and Lower Your Mortgage Payments

By John Ligon & Norbert Michel
President Obama said something truly great in his State of the Union Address this year. He told Congress:
[S]ince the most important investment many families make is their home, send me legislation that protects taxpayers from footing the bill for a housing crisis ever again, and keeps the dream of homeownership alive for future generations.
That sounds magnificent, and we couldn’t agree more. No one wants another housing crisis, and taxpayers certainly shouldn’t be on the hook for it.
So, what should Congress do? The answer: Eliminate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored entities (GSEs) that have been distorting the housing market for years AND costing taxpayers trillions of dollars. Taxpayers remain responsible for approximately $4 trillion in GSE guarantees.
The main thing holding America back from a better housing market is the fact that people are afraid of what would happen if the taxpayer-backed guarantees of the GSEs went away. So Heritage economists modeled what would happen to housing and the economy to find out.
We found that removing the government guarantee from housing finance should have a minimal impact on the overall U.S. economy—and it would likely result in lower housing costs, less personal debt, and higher personal income and savings.
It could also bring down monthly mortgage payments over time.
So why the fear of getting rid of Fannie and Freddie? Many people are convinced that the GSEs are integral to homeownership and lower interest rates. But here’s the truth:
  • Homeownership: Fannie and Freddie didn’t really have the earth-shaking effects on homeownership that people think. After billions in taxpayer subsidies, the long-term homeownership rate in the U.S. has remained virtually unchanged—increasing only from 63.9 percent in 1968 to 65 percent in 2013.
  • Interest rates: Research shows that homeowners may have benefited by paying, at most, 0.50 percent less in interest rates than if there had been no GSE subsidy.
Given the relatively small impact on interest rates, along with the minor long-term impact on homeownership rates, it is difficult to argue that the GSE subsidies are necessary for the housing market to function properly.
One of the great ironies of this debate is that the government programs initiated in the early 1930s were nationalized versions of innovations that had long existed in the private market. Nationalizing these did not eliminate financial risk; it only expanded it and shifted it onto taxpayers.
Some in Congress are suggesting they should replace Fannie and Freddie with similar programs. That would solve nothing. Lawmakers should be looking at a solution more like Representative Jeb Hensarling’s (R-TX). His proposal would get rid of Fannie and Freddie and instead encourage more private investment and innovation. It would also bring much needed reforms to the Federal Housing Administration.
The President is exactly right: We don’t need another housing crisis, and we don’t need taxpayers on the hook for these subsidized guarantees. Getting government out of the housing market would actually help the economy and homeowners alike.

She Dreamed Obamacare Was Harmless

 By Amy Payne
Obamacare is working, and it’s not costing any jobs.
Shhh…keep quiet, or you’ll wake Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from her dream.
“There is absolutely no evidence, and every economist will tell you this, that there is any job loss related to the Affordable Care Act,” she said on Monday.
In the land of the waking, Heritage’s James Sherk—an economist who doesn’t fall under “every economist,” according to Sebelius—plainly states that “The Affordable Care Act has discouraged companies from creating jobs and workers from accepting them.”
There are mountains of evidence—from businesses’ reports to the Federal Reserve to this list compiled by Investor’s Business Daily. And the stories keep coming: Just yesterday, an industry trade group estimated that Obamacare’s medical device tax has killed 33,000 jobs.
Obamacare’s job vise squeezes Americans from both sides: the employer side and the employee side.
Despite delays of the employer mandate, Sherk and Jacob Deveney write, “Employers are responding to the uncertainty of the Obamacare rollout by slashing hours and limiting their new hires.” That includes state and local governments, too.
Why? Sherk explains:
Obamacare will also encourage businesses to create part-time jobs instead of full-time jobs. Employers only pay the penalty on full-time workers. If they cut workers’ hours to part-time status, they owe no fines. So full-time jobs will become harder to come by when the penalties kick in.
While employers might not be hiring (or might be hiring only for part-time positions), would-be employees have a say in this equation, too. And Obamacare actually encourages them to work fewer hours.
The Congressional Budget Office recently reported that the law’s health care subsidies would push the equivalent of 2.3 million workers out of the workforce. Simply put, making less money means you can qualify for more taxpayer-funded Obamacare subsidies. But if you start making more, your subsidy drops.
These Americans find working more does not pay if it means fewer benefits. So they either drop to part-time or drop out of the labor market. They would prefer to work, but not if the government claws back three-quarters of what they would make through greater taxes and reduced benefits.
Perhaps Obamacare is actually a match made in heaven—it makes employers want to hire for fewer hours and employees want to work fewer hours. But that’s acceptable only if unemployed Americans sound like a dream come true.

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