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Voting to Endorse

I don’t expect to convince the haters. Just making my position known.

It’s actually pretty straightforward.

Have you noticed that the candidates who are most vocal about wanting an open primary have the least chance of winning a general election against Casey, and the candidates who have expressed support for the endorsement process are the higher quality candidates?

If we were to vote against endorsement, the primary election votes among the higher quality candidates would be diluted, and the likelihood that one of the less electable candidates might win the primary would increase. By voting to endorse one of the more electable candidates, the likelihood of fielding somebody with a good chance against Casey increases dramatically.

Conclusion – Our best chance of unseating Casey is to endorse in the primary process.

I also quite resent the notion that by choosing to support Mr. Welch, that I have demonstrated some combination of the following deficiencies: lack of independent thought; RINOism, failure to properly vet the candidate. For those who might agree with that assessment, I have no time for you. I shouldn’t have to explain to you that all candidates — for all offices, everywhere, and for all time — are flawed, including your guy, whomever that might be.

For the record, at no point did Mr. Gleason, Mr. Asher, or any state committee employee contact me about which candidate to support. There are no orders from on high, or at least none that made it to my phone or email in-box.

I am supporting the candidate who is best capable of projecting a pro-jobs, pro-growth conservative message that I firmly believe is capable of beating Casey. In the end, however, should the state committee choose to endorse another candidates, that candidate will have my full support.

January 25, 2012 at 11:05 pm Comment (1)

PA Poll: Dump Low Income Vouchers, Increase Tax Credit

 

There is an age-old adage: if you’re going to do something, do it right — or don’t do it at all.

Based on poll results exclusively obtained first by Freindly Fire, nowhere is that more applicable than in the fight for school vouchers in Pennsylvania. According to the Pulse Opinion Research poll conducted on behalf of UNITE PA, which surveyed 500 likely voters across the state, the majority of Pennsylvanians prefer that any school choice program be open to all students (or at least most of the middle class), as opposed to just low income, predominantly inner city students. This result is not surprising on any level, and, undeniably, leads to five rock solid conclusions:

1) The middle class realizes that ALL schools need improvement, and competition through choice is the best way to achieve that objective;

2) Pennsylvanians, by a whopping 78 to 9 margin, favor a broad-based choice program;

3) If a comprehensive choice program isn’t offered, citizens would prefer an expansion of the EITC educational tax credit — by a 3 to 1 ratio;

4) The reason voucher legislation failed in the Spring, and in all likelihood won’t pass now, isn’t due to opposition to school choice, but because the senate refuses to consider a broader, more inclusive bill, and therefore:

5) If a suburban or rural legislator supports vouchers only for low income families, while their constituents would be left out in the cold without receiving a penny, they do so at their own peril.  A full 40 percent of likely voters stated that they will be “less likely” to support that lawmaker in his or her next election based on that vote.

The message of this poll is clear: do vouchers the right way, or don’t do them at all.  And since the senate has already passed a low income version by the slimmest of margins, with its leaders stating that’s all they will do, expect the voucher bill to die what may be its final political death, and look for the EITC expansion to pass as a stand-alone bill (which it did in the Spring by a virtually unanimous 190-7 bipartisan vote on Rep. Tom Quigley’s House Bill 1330).

Failure to act responsibly will leave the GOP politically vulnerable, and, infinitely more important, abandon yet another generation of Pennsylvania’s future.

*****

Since last January, Republican Senator Jeff Piccola has been trying to pass legislation offering school vouchers only to students in underperforming schools who meet low income requirements. Despite crafting Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) during the Rendell Administration (when there was a Democratic State House and an anti-choice governor), Piccola never bothered to broaden the bill to reflect the new ten-seat Republican majority in the House, and pro-school choice Governor Tom Corbett.

Piccola, along with Democratic co-sponsor Senator Tony Williams, ran the bus over anyone who dared question why SB 1 was being treated as hallowed legislation, scoffing at — but not answering — queries as to why no attempt was made to broaden the bill, given the favorable legislative climate.  In the process, many SB 1 proponents demonized long-time political allies for their “brazen” attempt to improve a badly flawed education reform bill that would neither educate nor reform.

That intransigence directly led to vouchers dying on the vine in June.  Despite repeated assurances that it would pass the Senate, it was never brought to the floor for a vote. Piccola’s excuse for not running the bill was that the House wasn’t embracing SB 1 with the same fervor, yet the truth is that he didn’t even have the votes in his own chamber.

Last month, a watered-down version of SB 1 finally passed the senate after much arm-twisting, but as the poll shows, it’s back to Square One, meaning that SB 1 faces a tough road ahead. Many folks in Pennsylvania view vouchers favorably, but when they learn that the only voucher bill being considered is one that will never impact them, their support plummets.

Many traditional supporters of school choice have had SB 1 sold to them as the be-all-and-end-all.  But the huge irony is that these people in turn become the biggest detractors of SB 1 upon learning what the legislation does, and, more importantly, doesn’t do. From Catholic school advocates to Tea Partiers to everyday parents, the majority of those who favor school choice become irritated, if not downright angry, after discovering that in SB 1, a full seven years after enactment, middle income students would still be excluded. Because of this, many look at SB 1 as nothing more than yet another targeted entitlement program for Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

The results of the Pulse Opinion Poll are so clear cut that it’s a good bet many House members on the fence will now be moved to oppose the voucher aspect, instead calling for other educational reform measures to be considered individually rather than part of an SB 1 package.  Charter school reforms, teacher evaluations, and the EITC should be debated on their merits and not held hostage by certain senators hell-bent on ramming an ineffectual voucher bill down the House’s throat — or all-else be damned.

And if the House decides to eliminate the voucher and significantly expand the EITC, what then? Will Piccola once again call that legislation “dead on arrival” and kill it upon its return to the senate?

And if so, will the House leaders do the right thing and relegate Piccola to the dustbin of irrelevancy by simply mandating that the EITC expansion be part of the 2012 budget? 

It’s time to stop playing games.  Pennsylvania students are 42nd in SAT scores, ranking low in literacy, graduation rates and those attending college.  Their performance on the National Assessment of Education Progress exam has not improved.  And most startling, nearly HALF of all 11th graders are not proficient in math and reading.  This cannot be attributed to just the poor-performing urban schools pulling down scores, but is testament to an across-the-board educational failure. 

Advocating school choice for only low-income students results in the default perception that education is adequate everywhere else, which is not remotely accurate. We cannot afford to waste another decade, forsaking our children — our future — because some choose to ignore the widespread failure occurring on a daily basis.

The poll clearly shows what common sense already dictates: only competition can begin to reverse decades of educational failure. Comprehensive school choice provides that free-market solution, and, if passed, would be a model for the nation.  But since stubbornness, personal agendas and lack of political will are still prevalent in the Senate, let’s hope the House of Representatives acts responsibly and does the right thing for our children. 

As Voltaire said, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

And jettisoning a bad voucher program while passing other meaningful reforms is a very good start.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

 

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November 10, 2011 at 10:26 am Comments (0)

General Observations, Some Belated RSC Content

The background: H/T to Lisa Mossie for sharing a Ross Douthat NYT column in which he describes the inability of the populist/Tea Party faction(s) to produce an effective insurgent Presidential candidate.

I don’t want to sound like I’m co-signing Douthat’s piece here, but his point about the populists having legitimate gripes with the party ring true to me.  And yet, as Douthat points out, the solutions and candidates offered by the populists are often found wanting.  I find myself less distressed about the possibility of a Romney candidacy than I once was.

The 2012 US Senate race: Like the Presidential race, I think there are a few people who could potentially win, though none of them has really knocked it out of the park for me.  Every candidate I’ve examined has notable flaws.

I wonder how much “the establishment” really thinks we could beat Casey.  I think we have a good shot at it, provided that the political stars align.  That’s to say, I think it matters who we choose, and it matters that we get behind that person, and with the right national environment it’s a do-able race.  The idea that we might not take the 2012 Senate race seriously reminds me of the adage, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail”.

If you don’t think we can beat Casey, just roll over and die already. Please.

Tea Party at the RSC Fall Meeting:  I’ve been more than apologetic for the Tea Party since its formation.  I’ve argued that it doesn’t fall neatly into the right-left spectrum that many people imagine exists.  I’ve argued that (high overall quality) candidates can win while espousing Tea Party values. And I still believe those things.  But the Tea Party folks should be disappointed with the displays put on at the PAGOP fall meeting.

First off, if you are a committee member, it is generally bad form to wear t-shirts to official meetings proclaiming your wish to remove three incumbent “RINO” Congressmen.  The RINOs in question? Gerlach, Dent, and Platts.

Don’t get me wrong, I think each of these three men has less than stellar conservative voting records. But understand that Gerlach and Dent represent D+4 and D+2 districts, respectively.  I’m willing to cut those guys some slack and let the voters in their districts make that decision.  Platts’ lifetime ACU score of 72.74 could and should be better considering that he represents an R+12 district, but that’s nowhere near “RINO” level.  To hear some people talk, you’d think Platts was Arlen Specter crossed with Linc Chafee.

And I know that some of you folks think the people who spoke up at the meeting were heroic, but to most of the rest of us they just looked foolish.  Please understand the difference between a fundraiser (that costs money to attend) and official meetings (which are free to attend, provided you can get yourself to the meeting). Understand that not following Robert’s Rules of Order actually forces the Chairman to shut you down.

The sorts of displays put on at the RSC meeting did not reflect well upon the Tea Party, and only served to distance the committee membership from their cause.  And that’s a damned shame, because I truly believe the Tea Party has something to offer the Republican Party.

The Party:  I know that the straw poll didn’t really count for anything, but I thought it was sort of silly that they pushed Rick Santorum.  Given that the poll will only be taken seriously insofar as a serious candidate wins it, I thought it was a wasted opportunity to give an honest impression of how the committee members felt.  Perhaps we might have had some infinitesimally small influence over the process had we chosen either Romney or Perry.  Later that evening I asked a party official what the committee really accomplished by voting for Santorum.  He answered that we raised a bunch of money, which I suppose is at least a legitimate answer, but I still feel it was a silly thing to do.

The party actually pushed through some fairly hard-core conservative resolutions. Had anybody in the “populist” backbenches actually bothered to read them they might have liked them.

But to come full circle back to Ross Douthat’s column, the populist critique of the GOP is probably more about the style and manner in which the party leaders conduct business than it is about purely ideological matters.

October 2, 2011 at 7:58 pm Comments (4)

US Deserves Another Credit Downgrade

On any given day, tens of millions flock to the beach for the sun, sand and surf.  Yet because there have been fifty cases over the last decade of people digging deep holes being trapped in sand cave-ins (including one this week), there is a renewed call to ban digging holes at the beach.  Some towns have already done so (Myrtle Beach) and some are close to following suit (Los Angeles).

It’s such a “serious risk” that the LA Lifeguard Division Chief, when asked by a reporter what advice he would give parents who are heading to the beach, replied, “Don’t let your kids dig holes.”

Talk about burying your head in the sand. 

Fifty cases out of millions is insignificant — and that’s just the equivalent of one beach-going day. Now extend that out over ten years, and we’re talking about creating laws to ban an activity that had negative results for only 50 out of literally billions of beach trips.

Given that this warped mentality is now the norm, it’s no surprise that America just got handed a horrendously bad debt ceiling deal by Congress— one that will only exacerbate the problem — yet is already being celebrated as a necessary step and part of the “solution.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

So what do passing ridiculous laws and debt-raising deals have in common?  Both ignore the real problems, with  bury-your-head-in-the-sand thinking. Bad decisions are rationalized in a paternalistic, group-think way, accomplishing nothing but providing the decision-makers with a false sense of feeling good. 

It’s bad enough that we now make laws to “protect” idiots who want to dig side by side six-f0ot holes and try to tunnel between them. But laws intended to prevent stupidity never work.  So why don’t we instead focus on the real problems that we have, instead of passing do-nothing regulations that only hinder law-abiding folks using common sense? Because it’s the easy way out.

Welcome to the M.O. of the United States Congress.

Let’s look past the rhetoric and ponder the real implications of the debt deal recently passed by Congress and heralded as absolutely “necessary” to save America:

1) If virtually everyone in Washington agreed that the high national debt was a bad thing, then how could those same folks turn around and raise it?  It’s like locking an alcoholic in a liquor store for a week and expecting sobriety.  If the debt was admittedly the problem, then raising it, by definition, would only make the problem worse.  Go figure.

2) How can Congress be expected to solve the nation’s educational failures when its own basic math skills are suspect?  So to cut two trillion in spending, the solution is to add two trillion to the debt? Hmmm.  Granted, columnists are not that smart, but that one just doesn’t seem to add up.

3) A number of Republican Congressmen voted for debt deal “so that the small businessman wouldn’t be hurt” and to avoid a credit rating downgrade. Now, they get the worst of both worlds.  As any high schooler could have told you, the downgrade was coming, since the cuts weren’t nearly substantial enough.  So now faith in America takes a huge hit, interest rates and inflation will rise, and the markets will continue to freefall.  Yep, those things really serve the interests of small business.

4) Who exactly is going to buy the additional trillions in debt?  Sure, there will be foreign nations, investors, and fund managers, but there simply isn’t enough money out there to buy that much debt.  And don’t look to China to buy a whopping share of the new debt, since they aren’t exactly thrilled with the way things are going.  They are nervously watching their current U.S. debtholdings, and don’t want to be holding a worthless bag of goods as the value of the dollar continues to plummet. The Chinese may be a lot of things, but being imprudent with their own money is not one of them. They were cutting back on buying U.S. Treasuries well before this current fiasco.

5) Most significantly, does anyone really have any idea what a trillion is, let alone two, or 17, for that matter?  No, not even the brightest astrophysicists. It is an incomprehensible number.  So to give the debt increase some perspective, we have just given ourselves the green light to borrow more than the twice the entire economic output of Texas, currently the most productive state in the nation in terms of attracting residents and businesses and beating the recession.  For that matter, the debt increase is greater that the Gross Domestic Product of all but four countries — just the increase!

The truth of the matter is that America’s credit rating should have been downgraded quite some time ago, so it is a mathematical certainty that it will be downgraded again in the relatively near future.  And regarding the argument that raising the debt was necessary to avoid default, that’s Washintgton-speak, plain and simple.  There were numerous ways to pay the nation’s bills while not raising the debt ceiling.  Don’t get hypnotized by the “complexities” foisted upon us by a Congress — both Parties — with an insatiable appetite to spend.

They could have fixed the problem. They chose not to.

And the beauty of it all, at least from Congress’ perspective, is that they got what they wanted: more money to spend now, and down-the-road reductions that can, and absolutely will, be ignored by future Congresses. 

So what happens? Given our unprecedented situation, no one really knows for sure, but none of it will be good, and the pain level will be huge.

The West is experiencing its financial bankruptcy in large part because of its spiritual bankruptcy, and until that changes, don’t expect things to “get back to normal” anytime soon. 

But there is one measure of preparedness that will undoubtedly come in handy as the economic storm worsens: when at your foreign owned service station, learn to ask for your Middle Eastern-derived gasoline in Chinese. 

 

An accredited member of the media, Chris Friend is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com

Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller “Catastrophe.”

Freind, whose column appears regularly in Philadelphia Magazine and nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/national television, most notably on FOX Philadelphia.  He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

 

 

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August 17, 2011 at 1:23 pm Comments (0)

re: It’s Not Where You Are But Where You’re Going

Fred, I generally agree with the sentiment concerning certain people who never seem to be satisfied by anything.  I know a lot of activists were against any debt ceiling increase at all, and are mad as hell about the vote.  I think their expectations are entirely too high.  (Even the Ryan budget, as controversial as it is, wouldn’t balance the budget for a good long time.)

But with this particular debt deal, the fact that we still got an S&P credit downgrade tells me that we really should have done a lot better.  A compromise that doesn’t actually get the job done isn’t worth much.  If your car is careening towards a cliff, and you know that you must depress the brake 60% in order to avoid falling off, the debate among the other passengers in the car about whether to depress the brake 30% or 40% is sort of irrelevant.  At some point you need to consider the possibility of pulling the emergency brake on your own and hoping for the best.

So it’s at least an open question in my mind as to whether it would have been better to have the deal we ended up with, or whether it would have been better to force a government shutdown in order to get a better one.

August 6, 2011 at 12:05 pm Comments (0)

Debt Ceiling? Who Cares? Ballgame’s Over

Water is wet.  The sky is blue.  The United States is insolvent.

These are all true and indisputable statements, and none will change anytime soon.

Yet as The Great Debt Ceiling Debate continues, it is fascinating to watch both sides spin their rhetoric while missing the big picture entirely.  The Left, led by President Obama, says the U.S. must raise its debt limit or the government will default, throwing world markets into chaos. Particularly ironic was Obama chastising the Republican debt negotiators for allowing the country to come this close to the brink of default, apparently forgetting that he and his Party have spent incomprehensible amounts of money (with no value or return-on-investment) to put us at that brink.

Many on the Right, including some Tea Parties, seem content to play the blame game, arguing that Obama and the Democrats are solely to blame for America being on the edge of the abyss, conveniently forgetting that George W. Bush (who inherited a budget surplus) and his Republican Congress more than doubled the national debt during their watch.

As the debt deadline looms, markets are finally getting jittery because for the first time, there is a sense that, just maybe, the “they’ll get it done” confidence may not apply. And no one really knows for sure how things will shake out if the government cannot pay its bills.

Relax.  Of course the politicians will “get it done.”  They’ll do for one major reason, and it’s not an altruistic sense of doing what’s best for the country.  It’s called self-preservation; they don’t want to lose re-election next year because a government default further tanks the already dismal economy.

So they will play with the numbers, cook the books, and come up with a sound-bite worthy agreement that allows both sides to save face but in reality seals Americ’s fate.  Welcome to the Washington Two-Step.

In all likelihood, the debt ceiling will be raised somewhere north of $17 trillion (good for Obama), with promises of big “deficit reductions” and spending cuts over the next 10 years (red meat for the GOP base). 

Common sense begs a question, though.  In the spirit of Lightning McQueen in Cars, when he is told to “turn right to go left,” why is it necessary to spend more (increasing the debt) in order to cut spending (deficit reductions).  Kind of seems counterproductive. 

Even though we are told things are “much more complicated” in Washington than they seem to common folk (codespeak for don’t rock the boat), here’s an idea: since we knew this day was coming for quite some time, wouldn’t it have just been easier to tighten the nation’s belt by cutting spending and reducing the exorbitant waste, and therefore not having to raise the (already unsustainable) debt level?

While that works efficiently in the private sector, it is anathema to politicians, because, for the vast majority of lawmakers, it’s not about doing the right thing for country or constituents, but themselves.  That’s why Congress has historically passed workplace rules that Americans were mandated to follow, but which exempted Congressmen. And both Parties are equally complicit.

Which is why it doesn’t matter what happens with the debt ceiling. The beast has become so large that it is impossible to kill.  The ballgame is over, and United States will never be the same. Most tragically, it is a quagmire of our own doing.  We the people made our bed, and now we must lie in it.

Let’s be honest.  There is no possibility left to fix the problem. It has become pointless to discuss the “solutions” to America’s fiscal situation, because they simply do not exist.  This author included, there have been many who have outlined realistic, common sense steps that, while painful, would turn the ship around, thus avoiding the massive iceberg. But that won’t happen, because there is no political, or public, will to make them a reality. None.

Americans have been feeding at the public trough, in one form or another, for so long that everyone thinks they are “entitled” to damn near everything.  And despite the imminent financial collapse caused by that “let me get mine” mentality, the people still don’t want to give up the keys to the Treasury.  There remains a naïve belief that America is too big to fail.  How wrong.

Many mistakenly believe that the high standard of living enjoyed in America is a result of having the largest economy in the world.  It is not.  Because we have deliberately outsourced virtually our entire manufacturing base and refuse to become energy independent, the economy is built on a house of cards.  And the underlying foundation?  Debt.

Like their government, Americans have an unquenchable thirst for things they cannot afford.  Three year-old car not new enough anymore?  Buy a new one — with debt.  Want a 4,000 square foot house with flat screen TV’s in every room? Take out a massive mortgage.   Want to tell all your Facebook friends your exciting status of eating out every night?  Buy a smart phone you can’t afford.

So while certainly not defending the actions of Congress, it is really only reflecting the will of the people.

Which is why the debt deal, like most everything in Washington, will be smoke and mirrors.  They’ll increase our ability to borrow and spend more, but what they won’t tell you is that any future agreements to cut the deficit will be null and void in a year, as future Congresses will be under no obligation to follow any deficit reduction measures this legislature passes. It will continue to be Business As Usual.

The United States’ debt is now equal to our  annual Gross Domestic Product, a debt so high that we wouldn’t even meet European Union standards for admission. And anytime Europe has one up on you, you’ve got problems.

The economy won’t implode in a firestorm today or tomorrow, as some predict, but will be a slow, painful burn as entitlement programs eventually run out of money, government services dry up, interest rates rise, and inflation goes through the roof. 

This is no longer conjecture, but a mathematical certainty. Americans will have to reap what they have sown, and the diseased crop is quickly coming to harvest.

                                                                                 *****

The big question is whether Americans are ready and willing to admit their hypocrisy when it comes to spending.  Just as most sports fans feigned disgust during baseball’s Steroid Era, while secretly loving every minute of the enhanced level of play, so too are many criticizing mammoth spending while deep down hoping their pet projects don’t get slashed.

Baseball finally cleaned up its act, banning steroids (in 2005), and you know what? The offensive numbers are down across the board, and it’s not nearly as exciting as it was, but people still enjoy the game as players are playing within their natural abilities.

In much the same way, Americans will, at some point, have to learn to once again live within their means and realize that entitlements aren’t free and government money is actually their own. But it may take a default on the largest debt the world has ever known for that to sink in. And with that will come necessary, but extremely painful, sacrifices that will be the building blocks of The New America.

Will we finally learn the lesson to live within our means?  Hopefully, because if not, get used to living in the United States of China.

Chris Friend is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com

 Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller “Catastrophe.”

 Freind, whose column appears regularly in Philadelphia Magazine and nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/national television, most notably on FOX Philadelphia.  He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

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July 19, 2011 at 1:45 pm Comment (1)

Patriot-News Misunderstands Conservatism in Scaringi Profile

Robert Vickers profiled US Senate candidate Marc Scaringi in Sunday’s Patriot-News, describing his positions as “disjointed”. The profile betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of various schools of thought within the broader umbrellas of conservatism and Republican politics. Having spoken with Mr. Scarinigi on a few occasions, I can tell you that his positions –some of which I do not share– are all intellectually consistent and are well within the boundaries of conventional conservative philosophy.

Vickers:

The reasons why Harrisburg attorney Marc Scaringi believes he’s better suited for the U.S. Senate than incumbent Democrat Bob Casey Jr. are a bit disjointed.

No matter. They make sense to him.

Scaringi says the GOP professes conservative principles it rarely lives up to — but he’s running as a Republican.

He is staunchly free market — but wants congressional term limits for a free-market electorate.

He wants to see a massive reduction in activist U.S. foreign policy — but bristles at being called isolationist.

And he believes in the will of the people — but only to choose a senator who will legislate as he or she sees fit. If elected, “I’m not going to lecture or dictate to the voters,” he said. “But I don’t do anybody’s bidding.”

For someone who speaks glowingly of his time as an aide to former Sen. Rick Santorum, a self-professed social conservative, Scaringi has no social issues in his campaign platform.

I’ll take these one at a time, starting with term limits.

There’s nothing inherently anti-free market about term limits. None other than free-market economist Milton Friedman defended term limits, saying to the libertarian Cato Institute, “A six-year term limit for representatives would not change their basic nature, but it would change drastically the kinds of people who would seek election to Congress and the incentives under which they would operate. I believe that those of us who are interested in trying to reverse the allocation of our resources, to shift more and more to the private markets and less and less to the government market, must disabuse ourselves of the notion that all we need to do is elect the right people. At one point we thought electing the right president would do it. We did and it didn’t. We have to turn our attention to changing the incentives under which people operate.”

That sounds pretty pro-market to me.

Scaringi’s also not an isolationist.  At the risk of putting words in his mouth, I understand his position to be that he would be willing to engage in military action in order to protect vital US interests.  (I got the impression that this didn’t just mean keeping those sneaky Canadians above the 45th parallel.)  He certainly has a narrower view of those interests than I do, or than some others do, but the isolationist label does not fit.  Marc Scaringi is not Pat Buchanan.

(Would somebody care to explain what the vital US interest is in the ethnically tinged civil war in Libya?  Maybe I’d come aboard… if anybody in the Obama administration would ever attempt to explain it to the American people.)

As to the nature of political representation, the conflict described in the P-N article is as old as representative government itself.  Are representatives sent to exercise their own best judgement, or to blindly vote what they believe to be the will of the electorate at any given moment, irrespective of the consequences?  This is an intractable problem of representative government, and is hardly unique to Marc Scaringi.  (In the light of the ObamaCare vote, Casey has little room to criticize anybody else for substituting his own judgement for that of the electorate.)

On social issues, Scaringi may not have any positions listed on his website, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have them.  Scaringi is pro life.  So is the incumbent, at least ostensibly.  Voters who care enough to learn the differences between Scaringi and Casey on social issues will do so.  At present, I think it’s fair to say that the primary animating political factors are economic and fiscal in nature.  Scaringi hasn’t abandoned social conservatism, he’s merely focusing on the same issues the swing-voter electorate cares about.  That’s just smart politics in my book.

Regarding Scaringi’s fit in the Republican party, many tea partiers and other reform-minded conservatives have faced the same question, and most have come to a similar conclusion.  Like it or not, our first-past-the-post electoral system has a tendency to produce a two-party system.  Despite its faults, the Republican party is the best vehicle for implementing a conservative vision.  That doesn’t make the Republican party an ideal institution, and it doesn’t inoculate the party from criticism.  Ronald Reagan criticized the Republican party once upon a time, and today we are better for it.  There’s nothing “disjointed” about criticizing a political party to which one belongs.

The underlying weakness in the Patriot-News profile is the inability to recognize the diversity of thought within conservative and Republican politics.  It was only in 2004 that Pat Toomey nearly defeated Arlen Specter in the Senate primary contest.  (Is seven years such a long time?)  It is astonishing to me that a person could live through the rise of the Tea Party within  Republican ranks and fail to comprehend that the GOP is not monolithic in nature.

July 17, 2011 at 4:53 pm Comments (0)

Why Is PA’s GOP So Obstructionist On Education Reform?

 Sen. Piccola Can’t Pass His School Choice Bill, So He’s Killing Other Reforms

Spring is here, and that means water ice.

As the man at the counter placed his order, the total came to $4.30.  The clerk — a suburban high school-aged girl — mistakenly rang it up as forty three cents.  No problem. Mistakes happen.

All she had to do was subtract 43 cents from $4.30 and ring up the difference, and we’d be that much closer to our Italian ice.  Life would be good.

Except that the line stood still.  Turns out the girl was having a major problem — not with the cash register, but the math.  After conferring with her colleagues (and presumably a manager), it was determined that such a complex mathematical equation was just too difficult to mentally solve, so she just rang it up as a flat $2.00 and called it a final sale.

Hey, no one’s saying it’s easy to do calculations in your head with a long line of impatient gelati-crazed kids (and adults), but we’re also not talking about the complex mathematical equations Will solved in Good Will Hunting.

This situation is normally is blown off by a public that buries its head in the sand simply as an aberration, not reflective of America’s educational achievement. Wrong.  Our water ice clerk’s performance is not the exception, but the norm.

The United States ranks near the bottom of all educational categories against its industrialized competitors, and Pennsylvania is even worse: almost half of ALL eleventh graders cannot pass the state’s proficiency tests in reading and math.  That’s not just an inner city problem, but a statewide one.

So with education reform being such an integral part of last year’s GOP campaigns, and the Republicans sweeping to power by winning control of the Governor’s office and both state legislative chambers, it was a foregone conclusion that such reforms would be passed, with school choice leading the way.

But that didn’t happen, as that effort has been derailed — deliberately.  Not by the teachers’ unions mind you, but by the biggest political whiner of them all, Mr. School Choice himself — Republican Senator Jeff Piccola. 

*****

Pop quiz: name the politicians who said the following diametrically-opposed statements about the EITC (Educational Improvement Tax Credit), a successful decade-old program that gives tax credits to businesses that contribute to school choice scholarships.

A)    “I have always been a stalwart supporter of the EITC program and that’s why I recently introduced a measure to (upwardly) adjust the allowable household income for eligible families.” 

B)    “I can only speak for the Education Committee and it’s not coming out of there…it’s dead on arrival,” (referring to Montgomery County State Rep. Tom Quigley’s EITC expansion bill that just passed the House by a 190 to 7 vote).

Answers: Jeff Piccola and…Jeff Piccola.

You see, Piccola, Chairman of the Education Committee, has been leading the charge on Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), which is weak school choice legislation written last year while Rendell and the Democrats were in control and not reworked to reflect a school choice governor (Tom Corbett) and the new GOP-controlled House.

Despite untold millions spent by deep-pocketed SB 1 supporters — many of whom demonized the majority of conservatives (their allies, no less) who simply wanted a better, more inclusive bill rather than settling for one that only affected very low-income students — SB 1 died this spring.

And the reasons for its death could fill a book on what NOT to do in politics.

It never dawned on these Harrisburg know-it-alls to actually count votes before they shot off their mouths about SB 1’s virtually guaranteed passage.  So when a number of GOP senators announced they were not on board with the bill as it was written, jeopardizing its chances of success, it would have made good political sense to ask them what their concerns were, in a genuine attempt to understand their issues, and if possible, win their support.

But that didn’t happen. 

Instead, the SB 1 forces, now desperate to keep the issue alive since their wealthy friends might soon be turning off the money spigot, launched a series of brazenly stupid PR campaigns ostensibly designed to win over the wayward Republican senators.  Their strategy?  Produce misleading (and anonymous) phone calls, newspaper ads, radio commercials and deceitful direct mail pieces plastered with messages like “Shame on You, Senator.”

Not exactly the way to endear the targeted pol to your side.  The result? Scratch even more Republicans.

So with the prospects of SB 1 going the way of the dodo, it was left to the House to do the heavy education reform lifting, which it did with its near-unanimous vote to expand the EITC.

Given that the EITC was clearly the only bill with life, why would Piccola kill a concept he supports (EITC expansion is also in his SB 1) by declaring the House bill “DOA?” Especially when it would be absolutely guaranteed to pass the full senate and be signed into law by the Governor?

Selfishness.  If Piccola can’t have it his way, with his name on the bill he wants, he’ll settle for nothing. Curiously, that is exactly the charge leveled by SB 1 zealots against those trying to craft a more inclusive bill.

So much for education reform being all about “the kids.”

Piccola’s ineptitude has directly led to three things:

1)      The Republican Party is now viewed — correctly — as obstructionist.  Abandoning its campaign promise of reforming education, and turning its back on parents and their children who would benefit from the House bill does not benefit the GOP heading into an election year where Democrats will be much more competitive.

2)      The children —our future — are the biggest victims, pawns in the chess game Piccola is playing to garner headlines and accolades.  Piccola, who as committee chairman has the sole power to release the EITC bill from his committee for a full senate vote, may have won this political round — if you can call that a “win” — but in doing so, he’s turned his back on Pennsylvania’s students. When nearly half our high school juniors cannot read and add, and a solution is carelessly disregarded, we are all losers. 

3)      The perception that all politicians are greedy, self-interested hacks has been further reinforced in the minds of Pennsylvanians.  That’s a shame, because there really are many elected officials who put in an honest day’s work, fighting for the right reasons, not to satisfy their personal agendas — like Rep. Quigley and Chester County Rep. Curt Schroder, another educational reform leader fighting for ALL Pennsylvania students.

What happens now?  Maybe SB 1, if amended to truly include the middle class, has a shot in the fall.  Or possibly, if enough pressure can be brought upon Piccola and the hypocrites who staunchly support the EITC but are noticeably silent on Piccola’s DOA strategy, the EITC will be voted upon by the senate this spring.  But that window is closing fast.

Neither may occur, in which case meaningful education reform will not take place for a minimum of two years, as nothing controversial will be initiated during the 2012 election cycle.

Above all, one thing is certain. If education reform — be it school choice, EITC, teacher strikes or a host of other issues — hinges on Jeff Piccola’s political prowess, the prospects for success are about as great as the water ice clerk winning a Fields Medal in Math.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com

Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller “Catastrophe.”

Freind, whose column appears regularly in Philadelphia Magazine and nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/national television, most notably on FOX Philadelphia.  He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

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May 24, 2011 at 1:21 pm Comment (1)

$5 Gas? We Are The United States of Arabia

“Drill, baby, drill!”

That political phrase is fast approaching “Read My Lips, No New Taxes” territory, but its message is infinitely more important. The need to become energy independent is an absolute, since America’s increasing reliance on foreign oil threatens its national and economic security like never before.

With fuel prices skyrocketing, millions of jobs are threatened, and petro dollars flow from the United States to countries which wouldn’t shed a tear over another 9/11.

Because no new oil refineries or nuclear power plants have been constructed in over three decades, one leader in particular has been attempting to reduce America’s insatiable appetite for imported oil. Last year, he opened up over 500,000 square miles of coastal waters to oil and gas exploration for the first time in over twenty years, including the Atlantic Coast, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and northern Alaska.

He summed up why: “The bottom line is this: given our energy needs, in order to sustain economic growth, produce jobs, and keep our businesses competitive, we’re going to need to harness traditional sources of fuel even as we ramp up production of new sources of renewable, homegrown energy.”

In addition, this politician said, “I will tap our natural-gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology and find ways to safely harness nuclear power.”

It’s no surprise that this call for drilling was a “bitter disappointment for environmentalists and Democrats,” as one press report noted. 

The surprise, however, is that this leader happens to be the head of the Democratic Party – –none other than President Barack Obama.

Obama’s actions — pushing nuclear power in particular, as he arranged loan guarantees for two new plants — are akin to a conservative Republican calling for a ban on handguns.  The Democratic Party has long been captive to the radical environmentalist wing, who view Obama’s push for oil and nuclear as nothing short of treasonous.

One would think that if these folks are labeling Obama’s efforts a “betrayal,” the GOP would be embracing the President on what has traditionally been part of the Republican platform.

One would be wrong.

From the 2008 campaign to the 2010 State Of The Union address, where energy independence was a major theme, the standard Republican responses have been, “Well, he really doesn’t believe that,” and “his plan doesn’t go far enough.”

Far enough?  From what?  The standard GOP policy of America bent over a Middle Eastern barrel?

Even the Tea Parties are not immune.  The President recently toured a wind turbine manufacturing plant in Bucks County, using the occasion to further tout his energy policy.  One of that region’s largest Tea Party organizations staged a rally, billing their event as a protest to Obama “discouraging domestic oil production” by “ignoring the necessity to drill for oil in our vast national reserves.”

Hey, never let facts get in the way of the truth.

The intransigence of the Republicans to run with what should be their core issue is simply incomprehensible. And while energy independence should never be a partisan issue, given that it affects our future more than anything else, it is clearly obtainable only if the GOP/Obama version is executed.

Alternative energy sources are most certainly important, but will never produce anything remotely close to the nation’s energy needs.  The indisputable fact is that black gold, natural gas and nuclear will always be the mainstay, at least until a new source is discovered.

But what has the GOP done, both when it had majorities and after it lost them?  Nothing positive.

George W. Bush could have opened up the ANWR in Alaska with virtually no opposition had he called for such in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.  Instead, it took him seven years to call for lifting the offshore drilling moratorium put in place by… the first President Bush.  Too little, too late.

During a radio interview I conducted in March 2010, a Pennsylvania Republican congressman actually said he couldn’t introduce an offshore drilling bill because he was “in the minority.” Sorry, but Civics 101 says otherwise.  Any bill can be introduced; the issue is whether it would make it out of Committee.  The political leverage would come from pitting the obstructionist Democratic Congress against its own President.  But that never happened.

And then-Minority Leader John Boehner’s response to Obama’s plan? Nothing but rebuke rooted in pure partisanship. “It’s long past time for this Administration to stop delaying American energy production off all our shores and start listening to the American people who want an “all of the above” strategy to produce more American energy,” he has said.  But Boehner’s rubber never met the road.  Not when the GOP controlled the Congress and White House.  Not when they were in the Minority.  And not now.

Where were the Tea Party folks and Obama-bashers when the Republicans did nothing to achieve energy independence, despite holding all the cards?   They had better be careful, because selective memory and deliberate inconsistencies are the hallmarks for losing all credibility with The Great American Middle.

Is the President’s plan perfect? Of course not.  The rigs in the Gulf still sit idle, moratoriums still exist, and drilling in the ANWR isn’t on the President’s agenda.  It’s inexplicable and inexcusable that his willingness to explore options for energy independence has been met with a Republican brick wall. 

Whether it’s pure partisanship, a GOP tactic to win the Senate and White House next year, or simply the insular nature of Congress, the inability to make energy the number one issue is catastrophic. The huge growth platform that energy independence creates is the ONLY way for America to solve its budgetary woes.

Yet nothing happens.

The current inaction pushes the nation further into the red, endangering Americans’ welfare in an unprecedented fashion.

The ugly reality is that the USA may soon stand for United States Of Arabia.

Doesn’t have quite the same ring, does it?

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com

Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick recent bestseller “Catastrophe.”

   Freind, whose column appears regularly in Philadelphia Magazine and nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/national television, most notably on FOX Philadelphia.  He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

 

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April 12, 2011 at 5:14 pm Comments (0)

Libya Is All About Oil — Time To Drill

Recently on Good Morning America, Congresswoman and presidential contender Michele Bachmann was asked, “What is America’s number one vital interest in the Middle East.”

She answered, “…our safety and security of people in the United States is always number one.”

Not only was Bachmann’s response a non-descript talking-point, but it didn’t even answer the question.  Unfortunately, Bachmann missed a softball that she could have, and should have, knocked out of the park, one that would have separated herself from her colleagues.

Here’s the correct answer:

America’s vital interest in the Middle East can be summed up in three words: oil, oil and oil.  That’s it.  If that region wasn’t sitting on such huge reserves, America wouldn’t give it a second thought, with the exception of its security guarantee to Israel.

As a Republican and Tea Party leader, Bachmann should have instinctively talked of America’s unholy reliance on foreign oil, much of it from hostile nations in the Middle East, and aggressively pushed for energy-independence. 

She could have talked about how the largest natural gas deposits in the world remain virtually untapped (the Marcellus and Utica Shale); the vast oil reserves in Alaska that are closed to drilling; the Bakken Formation in North Dakota that holds over 4 billion barrels; the petroleum reserves under the Rockies that could well be the largest on the planet; the fact that we’re not drilling offshore , and that production has not yet resumed in the Gulf.

She could have then explained that, if we focused on these domestic sources, we wouldn’t be paying $4/gallon and watching inflation rise, nor would we be fretting about the Middle Eastern uprisings, and who we should be supporting. 

But she didn’t.  And that’s too bad, because otherwise, Bachmann’s voice on the national stage is an important one.

The fact is that if a leader doesn’t understand, or can’t articulate, solutions to the single-biggest problem facing America — being bent over a barrel because of our energy dependence — then their effectiveness is extremely limited.

And because neither Party, nor current and past Administrations, has done anything to achieve energy independence, America is now involved in yet another Middle Eastern conflict with no clear objectives.  The only things being accomplished are creating more uncertainty in world markets and placing American military personnel in danger. And for what?

Several points to consider:

1)      There is no question why the U.S. is involved.  It’s not about stopping a brutal dictator, nor is it about civilian deaths.  And it’s not about democracy and freedom for the Libyans.  It’s simply because Libya produces a lot of oil.  If it was really about any of the aforementioned reasons, we’d be forcefully engaged in most countries around the globe, since democracies are the exception.  Just look at the Rwandan conflict: 20 percent of the population was slaughtered, but it had no oil.  Result: no intervention.  A little truth for why we are in Libya would go a long way.

2)      So much for Obama’s campaign pledges of “no more wars of choice,” and “no blood for oil.”

3)      Gaddafi, while certainly no angel, has not been the thorn in America’s side he once was.  He admitted complicity in the Pan Am 103 bombing and paid reparations, dismantled his nuclear weapons program and, understanding the new world order after the 9/11 attacks, stopped harboring terrorists.  As a result, Libya was taken off the U.S. government’s State Sponsor of Terrorism list by the Bush Administration, with then- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stating Libya was being rewarded for its “renunciation of terrorism and the excellent cooperation Libya has provided to the United States” in the war on terror. And the flow of Libyan oil has been unimpeded. So much for the brutal dictator theory.

4)      Who exactly are the rebels we are supporting by bombing the country and establishing the No Fly Zone?  Are they all James Madison-types looking to establish a democratic Republic? Or are they the Muslim Brotherhood— or worse?  Given many Middle Easterners’ track record of viewing the United States as the Great Satan, the odds probably aren’t favorable that we’ll be singing Kumbaya with them a few months from now — especially since reports now state that eastern Libya (home of the rebels) sent more fighters to engage the U.S. in Iraq than anywhere else.

5)      A No-Fly Zone does not make a democracy.  Okay, we are preventing Gaddafi from using his aircraft.  But what happens when he starts whipping the rebels anyway?  Do we bomb his troops and tanks?  Do we send in Special Forces?  What happens when a pilot is shot down— as just happened?  More important, what happens when a similar situation arises in Saudi Arabia, and civilians get mowed down — as they will, since the King isn’t going quietly.  Do we establish a No Fly Zone over The Kingdom?  Do we bomb them, too?  Not a chance in the world.

Despite all the questions, there are no answers, and the coalition, if you can call it that, has already begun splitting apart.

6)      We lose no matter how you slice it.  The majority of Libyan oil is sold to Italy and France, yet America has been roped in to do their heavy lifting.  Why?  And as more Libyans die from allied airstrikes, America will get blamed on the Arab Street.  Gaddafi’s claim of another “Crusade ” against a Muslim nation will hit home to millions of Muslims across the world, vastly undermining any goodwill that may have been generated over the last several years and bolstering terrorist recruitment.  And the support of the worthless Arab League, whose officials are already back-tracking, means nothing.  It’s not their planes doing the bombing, but ours.  We get all the negatives and none of the positives while the Arab League gets the best of both worlds.

The United States’ involvement in Libya, a nation that in no manner attacked America or caused it harm, sets an extremely dangerous precedent. Ironically, this effort, executed with no foresight and one that has absolutely no endgame, further endangers our national security.   Playing into the mentality of millions of Muslims that the U.S. seeks to dominate their countries will only enflame anti-American feelings.

George Washington could not have been more right when he advised against foreign entanglements and intervening in the internal affairs of sovereign nations. That wisdom is proof that modern advances will never be a substitute for old-fashioned common sense.

 

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com

Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in DicK Morris’ recent bestseller “Catastrophe.”

 Freind, whose column appears regularly in Philadelphia Magazine and nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/national television, most notably on FOX Philadelphia.  He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

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March 22, 2011 at 2:07 pm Comments (0)

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