pawatercooler.com

Under Obama’s Plan, Electricity Prices Would Necessarily Skyrocket

And this is how it happens.

GenOn will close three area power plants

GenOn expects to deactivate 3,140 MWs of generating capacity in PJM between June 2012 and May 2015 because forecasted returns on investments necessary to comply with environmental regulations are insufficient.

Let me translate that: It will cost way too much to comply with the new environmental regulations coming down the pike, so we are just going to shut down. This is the fruit of Obama’s radical environmental policies. Lost jobs, loss of tax revenue to towns where these plants are, and more expensive electricity during a time when people are struggling to pay their bills.

Incidentally, GenOn has already spent a boatload of money on environmental upgrades, so spare me the corporate polluter schtick.

Environmental Capital Expenditures Since 2000: GenOn has invested approximately $2.4 billion in environmental controls for the existing plants expected to remain in GenOn’s fleet after the deactivations. Compared to 1990 emission levels, 2011 NOX emissions were reduced by 78% and SO2 emissions were reduced by 90% for those generating facilities. In addition, GenOn expects to make further improvements by investing $586 to $726 million over the next ten years for major environmental controls at some of its generating stations to meet air and water environmental regulations.

Still, apparently, three billion-ish dollars is not enough. The EPA wants MOAR! and if GenOn can’t pay, then that’s too bad.

Outrageous, yes? Not to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette! Don Hopey, their in-house tree-hugger, thinks this is absolutely fantastic.

The Sierra Club hailed the closures as a “victory for clean air.” The pollution emissions reductions will prevent more than 179 premature deaths, 300 heart attacks, and 2,800 asthma attacks, according to data from the Clean Air Task Force, a national environmental clean air advocacy group.

“Above all, this is a win for public health and for families who have been breathing polluted air from these outdated plants,” said Bruce Nilles, senior director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.

“GenOn has recognized that operating outdated, dirty coal plants just doesn’t make economic sense anymore, especially in a time when constructing a wind farm is now cheaper than building a new coal plant. What matters now is ensuring that GenOn does the right thing and transitions these workers into the growing clean energy sector.”

That sharp pain you feel in your temple is an aneurysm. It will either pass or sweet sweet death will take you. You’re a winner either way, trust me.

If you dare read the article, you’ll see that the PG didn’t bother quoting anyone from GenOn. Maybe Don Hopey’s afraid they’ll tell the truth and through some twisted dedication to journalistic ethics he’ll have to publish it. You’ll also see that there’s no mention of the people who will be out of work, the potential devastation of families, or the difficulty in finding blue collar jobs in this economy. Nothing. Just smug scolding from the enviro-nazis and a paean to the fictitious clean energy sector.

I have an idea. Instead of GenOn transitioning these workers into faux green jobs, they should pay for college courses in economics and political science for each of the newly unemployed so that they can understand why their jobs disappeared. And then they should pay for a free shuttle to the polls in November. There’s a polling place at the Elrama Fire Hall–just up the street from the old power plant.

February 29, 2012 at 9:52 pm Comment (1)

Philadelphia Catholic Schools Remain Open— But For How Long?

 Will the Church finally play political hardball?

 

I always try to check my emotions at the door when I begin a column. That’s why I rarely write in the first person. But, hey, I’m also human and a Philly Catholic, so I shed a few tears of joy when it was recently announced that four diocesan high schools and eighteen elementary schools were reprieved from their death sentence and would remain open. I didn’t go to Bonner (mine was the other Augustinian school, Malvern), but a brother, an uncle and a bunch of my friends did. (In fact, my uncle was a member of Bonner’s first graduating class and has three Prendergast—yes, Prendergast—football letters. How’s that for trivia?).And I have an aunt who’s a grad of the school which has, perhaps, the greatest tradition of all—West Catholic.

 

(Quick tangent: I’m a graduate of Annunciation BVM grade school in Havertown, which a niece and nephew presently attend.  Despite meeting or exceeding all of the thresholds laid out by Bishop McFadden in 2009 to remain open, Annunciation is nonetheless being closed. Ignoring the wishes of his congregation, the pastor refused to appeal. Scores of parishioners, encouraged by the 75% success rate of the schools that did appeal, as well as West Catholic remaining open even though it did not appeal, have taken their case directly to Archbishop Chaput.

 

Now that a short-term victory for many schools has been achieved, it’s time to push emotion aside and take an objective look at the situation, where more questions than answers remain.  What changed? What transpired in thirty days that allowed almost half of the schools to stay open? Was it “faulty information” that the Blue Ribbon Commission received, as some readers allege?  Or was it a few deep-pocketed donors stepping up to the plate?  And if so, is relying on a handful of wealthy individuals really a sustainable financial solution?

 

*****

 

It seems quite a stretch that bad information could be the reason for the turnaround. For that to be true, many schools must have submitted data painting a very negative picture — information subsequently determined to be incorrect (hence the reversals).  Outside of a few pastors who lack the desire or energy to further the mission of Catholic education, that scenario doesn’t stand up to the common sense test, since most schools would obviously put their best foot forward in their quest to stay open.

 

So either the Commission did not request the right information, or completely dropped the ball in analyzing the documents it did receive (as referenced in last week’s column). Either way, given that the Commission’s decisions affected the lives of so many, Philadelphia Catholics had every right to expect more, especially given the composition of the Commission. Its members included former top executives of some of America’s largest banks and insurance companies who were familiar with making tough financial decisions. Something just doesn’t add up, and, fair or not, that is fostering cynicism and fear that future closings are inevitable.

Of course, there is another possibility — that the Commission simply never bothered (or wasn’t allowed?) to contact many of the schools in question.  Since more than a few pastors confidentially enlightened me to that situation — why would they lie about something so easily verifiable? — it tends to further cloud the entire decision making process, both closures and reprieves.  And why on earth, if the Commission/Archdiocese realized that the data was incomplete and/or their methodologies flawed, would they not postpone the original announcement in January until they got their house in order?

As a result, many faithful are rolling their eyes (again), wondering how the Archdiocese could look so foolish, while still not communicating any long-term solution. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that, since enrollment has decreased sharply over the last decade while costs have risen, a viable plan must be enacted quickly, or the same situation will arise in the near future.

 

With that distinct possibility looming, how can the Church avoid it?

 

1) Start talking about the positive aspects of the Church, restoring the credibility that has been shattered by years of sex scandals, shredded documents and cover-ups. The Roman Catholic Church is the largest provider of social services in the entire world (and second in America behind only the U.S. government) and administers the world’s largest nonpublic school system, yet most people are unaware of those phenomenal achievements — a massive failure in public relations. The Catholic mission is perhaps the most noble on the planet, and the Church’s history, while certainly not without its darker moments, is a storied one.  From its humble beginnings as the church of a fisherman named Peter, Roman Catholicism became the most benevolent and impactful force the world has ever known.  It’s time to tell that magnificent story and educate the world — again — on what it really means to be Catholic, while purging every aspect of the scandals which have rocked the Church to its very foundations. Unequivocally, pride in Catholic identity leads to fuller schools.

 

2) The newly created Faith In The Future Foundation — charged with fundraising and being a guiding force on marketing and recruiting for the 17 archdiocesan high schools and assisting parish elementary schools—- is a good idea, but only if it offers membership to rank-and-file Catholics with ears to the ground.  Much criticism directed at the Church is that it is too insulated from the pressing issues, and too isolated from the parishioners themselves.  If the Foundation is comprised only of millionaires and politically-connected Catholics, it will fail.  That is not to invoke “class warfare,” for having intelligent business leaders is imperative, but by definition, most would not be able to relate to the concerns of the masses (no pun intended).  If “average” Catholics are not given a dedicated platform to offer their perspective, the rigidness, bureaucracy and stagnation that has come to define the Archdiocese will only worsen.  And the exodus of Catholics will accelerate.

 

3) The Church needs to fight. If you want a true long-term solution to keep schools open and thriving, and believe the best way is by returning to parents some of their tax money (vouchers and tax credits) so they can make the best choice where to educate their children, you are absolutely correct. But it doesn’t happen by itself.  

 

It only happens when political muscle is flexed. It only happens when you play hardball.  It only happens when you unabashedly make school choice the Church’s Number One issue in the primary and general election.  And it only happens when you make it crystal clear to all legislators who doubt the ferocity of a newly awakened tiger — one that has shed its paper skin — that they will reap the whirlwind for that miscalculation.

 

Seems common sense, yet the Church has been doing the complete opposite. For over a year, Freindly Fire and others have been successfully battling clueless Church factions who have been pushing “educational reform” legislation (Senate Bill 1) that would neither educate nor reform.  It’s such a worthless bill —written while Ed Rendell was still Governor and not amended to include the middle class (at all) despite an infinitely more favorable Legislature and pro-school choice Governor Tom Corbett — that, had it been passed a year ago, virtually none of the schools slated for closure would have been saved. School choice bills affecting just low-income families are born losers; only when the middle class is comprehensively included will there be light at the end of the tunnel to help Catholic schools survive and prosper.

 

Ironically, the Church — through its lobbying arm, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference —hurt itself by backing the wrong bill and not being truthful that the middle class was excluded from that legislation. Upon learning that the bill would never affect them or help keep their schools open, many Catholics reacted with palpable anger, setting off another wholly preventable firestorm. One step forward and three back is not the way to achieve political success.

 

What can be done immediately? Make an extremely aggressive push to have the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) expansion bill pass the Senate, where “school choice advocate” Senator Jeff Piccola is selfishly letting it languish (calling it “D.O.A.”) because he can’t pass his low-income voucher bill.  Making the sin mortal is that the EITC bill, sponsored by Montgomery County State Representative Tom Quigley, passed the House by an unheard-of bipartisan vote of 190 to 7 —a year ago!  The biggest tragedy is that some of the schools that have been ordered to close might have been saved if this bill had passed last spring.  But because of misguided legislative priorities and a total lack of political pressure by the Church, Catholics — and their schools — continue to suffer.

 

*****

 

All of the suggested solutions will be for naught if the hierarchy doesn’t learn one lesson very quickly. You cannot grow the Church by being inconsistent, and yes, hypocritical, especially to your own people.  The Archdiocese has thus far refused to grant school choice to many in elementary schools, instead dictating what schools children must attend.  That policy has created an immense backlash, with thousands feeling betrayed since they correctly see the Church pushing school choice for others, but denying it to them.  And no amount of spin or enrollment explanations will change that bitter sentiment.  Charity starts at home.

 

Of the countless emails received in the last week — most from loyal Catholics — one message was most common: Keep the faith but fight the corruption. 

 

If grounded Church leaders and reinvigorated rank-and-file Catholics keep that in mind while preaching a positive message and a wielding a political sledgehammer, then prayers for keeping Catholic education alive far into the future will undoubtedly be answered.

 

An accredited member of the media, 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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February 29, 2012 at 3:03 pm Comment (1)

The Sharia Defense in Pennsylvania

Al Stefanelli relates an instance of Sharia law being applied in a Pennsylvania State court.

The Pennsylvania State Director of American Atheists, Inc., Mr. Ernest Perce V., was assaulted by a Muslim while participating in a Halloween parade. Along with a Zombie Pope, Ernest was costumed as Zombie Muhammad. The assault was caught on video, the Muslim man admitted to his crime and charges were filed in what should have been an open-and-shut case. That’s not what happened, though.

The defendant is an immigrant and claims he did not know his actions were illegal, or that it was legal in this country to represent Muhammad in any form. To add insult to injury, he also testified that his 9 year old son was present, and the man said he felt he needed to show his young son that he was willing to fight for his Prophet. 

The case went to trial, and as circumstances would dictate, Judge Mark Martin is also a Muslim. What transpired next was surreal. The Judge not only ruled in favor of the defendant, but called Mr. Perce a name and told him that if he were in a Muslim country, he’d be put to death.

[Emphasis mine]

Read the whole thing here. The article quotes extensively from the judge’s comments. You will not believe it! Stefanelli concluded his article by saying that we will hear much, much more about this case. Here’s the first take by Andrew McCarthy, an expert on constitutional law [a real one, not fake like our President].

[O]ne’s “attitude toward Muslims” is irrelevant to one’s right in America to walk the streets and express opinions people may find offensive without being physically attacked and intimidated. And the fact that sharia governments kill people over such expressions of opinion means that they are barbaric, not that we should tolerate additional constraints on our (diminishing) liberties. Contrary to Judge Martin’s view — a view that is becoming increasingly and disturbingly common among top administration officials, some members of Congress, and the military brass — sharia does not set the “bounds on First Amendment rights.”

Read the whole commentary here.

Stefanelli and McCarthy both agree, as do I — this is a case we will be hearing a lot more about in coming months. It would be interesting to hear what the lawyers among the Cooler Crowd think of this.

 

February 25, 2012 at 1:06 am Comments (3)

Is Philadelphia Archdiocese Lying Or Just Incompetent?

School Closings And Appeals Leave More Questions Than Answers —And The Church Isn’t Talking

“I don’t know Chief…this shark is either very smart, or very dumb…”

So was the famous line uttered by the legendary Quint in Jaws, as he was trying to figure out the intentions of the great white. 

After the recent roller coaster ride regarding Archdiocesan school closings — and now the many reprieves — Catholics across the Philadelphia region are wondering the same thing.  Is the Church hierarchy very smart (in a conniving way), or very dumb?

Or are they, and the “Blue Ribbon” school commission deciding the fate of so many, just downright incompetent?

There isn’t a fourth option.

At issue is that a whopping 75 percent of Catholic elementary schools that appealed their closings were successful, meaning that their doors are staying open, at least for now.

Last Friday, it was announced that of the 24 appeals, 18 won.  While it seemed like a “Good Friday” to many, something tells me it may turn into a day of regret, closer in fact to a Black Friday.

This is not meant to rain on anyone’s parade, as there is obvious cause for celebration for many Catholic families.  After all, they had been told last month that their beloved schools — 49 of them — were slated for permanent closure.  While there was an appeals process, based solely on factual errors committed by the Commission, virtually everyone figured there would be very few successful appeals, if any.

And with good reason.

In January, the chairman of the Commission, John Quindlen, former Chief Financial Officer of DuPont, made it crystal clear why schools were closing and consolidating.

“A lot of this should have been done 10 years ago…(but)… naivete and an unwillingness to face reality” kept many pastors and archdiocesan leaders from halting long ago the “death spiral” of declining population and rising tuition at so many schools, he said, according to Philly.com.  “They would say, ‘I can make this work…But we had to come along and finally say, ‘God bless you, but this has got to stop.’ ”

Fast forward one month to the Church’s about-face, and Quindlen’s comments tell a starkly different story. “I celebrate the results and pray they all survive in the long term…Neither the commission nor the Archdiocese was in a rush to close schools. Our focus was on how to sustain them.”

What? Did he seriously say that with a straight face?

How can you make the leap from a “death spiral” to “celebrating the results” and talking about sustainability in less than one month? 

Give the Archdiocese credit for one thing: if they are trying to anger as many Catholics as possible in the most bumbling manner while ignoring all rules of good communication and PR, they are succeeding beyond their wildest dreams.

Let’s cut through the emotions tied to school closings and look at this situation objectively.  In doing do, one has to ask: Why the games? Why did the Church say one thing — that in retrospect now seems very suspect — and then almost completely reverse itself, all the while talking in platitudes that didn’t remotely address the questions and concerns of many?

It has left many scratching their heads, and even more seething.

So here are the questions that absolutely must be addressed in order for the Archdiocese to have any credibility moving forward, and to prevent the exodus of loyal, but very bitter, Catholics:

1) Is Catholic education too expensive to sustain in most if not all of the 49 schools that were originally slated for shuttering?  If yes — which is what the Archdiocese has been telling us, and selling us, for quite some time — then how can 3 out of 4 appeals have been successful?  What changed?  Did a billionaire step up and write a big check to keep the schools open?  If so, we don’t need a name, because charity should be anonymous, but we do have a right to know if that happened (extremely unlikely as it is).

2) If the opposite is true — that those schools are in fact affordable — then why have we been told something so radically different for so long?  It’s like being pregnant: you are or you aren’t. Either the Church can operate these schools efficiently, or they can’t.  There is no in-between. But that’s exactly where this situation is — in no-man’s land, and their equivocation has just added to the confusion.

3) Is incompetence to blame for the contradictory messages? We were told that appeals would only be considered if factual errors were made in determining which schools closed.  Well, by that logic, that’s a heck of a lot of errors.  If a student makes “factual errors” on 75 percent of a test, his grade is a 25.  Which, unless you attend a public school in Philadelphia, is an F.  Not exactly a stellar track record.

4) Were we lied to from the get-go? And if so, why? Was the threat of closings a grand conspiracy to flush out big contributors as well as lighten the wallets of the rank-and-file even more? Don’t scoff.  The Archdiocese has a history of not being straightforward.

Just look at its red face regarding its mishandling — and lack of truthfulness — involving one its schools in Philadelphia.  According to a news report, a group starting a public charter school stated that it was assured by the Archdiocese that it could rent Our Lady of Mount Carmel school for that purpose — two months before the Commission recommended closing the school! Mount Carmel appealed its closing. Any guesses as to how that turned out? It begs the questions as to why the Diocese would even allow the school to appeal when its fate had apparently already been determined.

Since we are on the topic of education, perhaps a refresher is in order.  The 8th Commandment tells us that we should not bear false witness against our neighbor.  In layman’s terms, playing loose with the truth — and outright lying — doesn’t bode well for a Church preaching morality and in desperate need of credibility and trust.

5) What about the folks at all the other schools who wanted to appeal but were dissuaded from doing so because the odds were so long for success?  Common sense tells us that if they had known such a large number of schools would win their cases, many others would have appealed.  Now, those parents and students feel even more burned than they did a month ago — a remarkable feat in itself.

6) The appeals have thrown schools that were thought to be “safe” into chaos.  Nativity BVM in Media, for example, was originally intended to stay open, absorbing students from St. John Chrysostom in Wallingford.  St. John’s won their appeal though, and now, in a stunning reversal, Nativity is shutting its doors.

Not only do parents and teachers feel completely betrayed by this out-of-nowhere blindside, but there’s an even more unjust twist: Nativity apparently does not have the ability to appeal like all the other schools did. Talk about rubbing salt in the wound.

And it’s exactly that type of move, accompanied by virtually no communication, which drives fuming parishoners to leave the Church. Hence the decline in church attendance and school enrollment.

7) How can the Church push for school choice when it does not allow choice for its own members at the elementary school level? So some families in Annunciation parish in Havertown, for example, whose school closed because its pastor refused to file the appeal that so many parents begged him to do, must send their children all the way across town to St. Denis, when in fact they live within walking distance to Sacred Heart?  How ironic that the very Church fighting the image of hypocrisy born from the sex scandal now engages in more hypocrisy: fighting for school choice as long as it doesn’t apply to its own flock. When will they learn?

8.  There are no guarantees in life, but what assurances can the Church give that, in the next few years, those 24 schools, as well as any others, will not close? Since it is impossible to believe that the problems of declining enrollment, rising costs and overall unsustainability have all been solved in the last 30 days, woe to those parents who take the recent reprieves to be a sign of long-term viability, for they may well be revisiting this exact situation in the near future.  And that just isn’t right.

*****

The point of this column is neither to agree with nor criticize the specific school closings and successful appeals, but to implore the Archdiocese to come clean with all the facts. 

Quint had to figure out what the shark was doing and why. For all the blood, sweat and tears Catholics have shed for their Church over the years, they should never have to question the motivations of their Catholic leaders. They only seek the truth, and deserve no less. It’s time to give it to them.

And that’s no fish story.

 

An accredited member of the media, 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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February 22, 2012 at 8:44 am Comments (2)

Contraception won’t be the end of it

Contraception won’t be the last political battle waged because of Obamacare. And I don’t just mean abortion, or the morning-after pill, or even stem-cell procedures. The Democrats have made health care a political issue, and naturally, health care of all kinds will henceforth be of political concern.

It’s really quite that simple. They made health care political, and now it’s political. All of it.

It won’t all be about religiously sensitive issues either. Surely we will look forward to debates about plastic surgery. No, not the run of the mill nose job or tummy tuck. Should society pay for reconstructive surgery? For accident victims? For breast cancer patients?

Most of us know a woman who has been disfigured by breast cancer. My late grandmother had it. Twice. Some women understandably choose to have implants and reconstructive surgery. But is it society’s responsibility to give these women fake boobs?

This will undoubtedly be a political issue, as all other medical treatments will be. Our national leaders will need to take stated positions on the extremely pressing issue of breast implants. (It’s not like they have anything more important to do…)

And autism treatments. And in-home care for any variety of politically viable interest groups, such as Alzheimer’s patients. And chiropractic care. And hormone replacement therapy – male and female. And erectile dysfunction. And substance abuse treatments of various kinds, from smoking cessation to methadone to inpatient rehabilitation. And this and that and everything under the sun.

One can make various arguments for or against coverage of any of these or other various treatments. But if the taxpayer is picking up they tab, they’re all potential political footballs thanks to Obamacare.

February 20, 2012 at 7:35 pm Comments (4)

Did Chris Christie Lower Jersey Flags for Whitney Houston to Suck Up to Black People?

 

Chris Christie And Whitney Houston: Not Perfect Together

As published in Philadelphia Magazine…

http://blogs.phillymag.com/the_philly_post/2012/02/17/chris-christie-jersey-flags-whitney-houston-suck-black-people/

With the sparse media coverage of Whitney Houston’s death and funeral, it’s not surprising that her years of military service have gone largely unnoticed, as were her activities as an undercover cop in New Jersey (was she really killed after a sting went bad?).  After all, she must have done these dangerous things to warrant all Jersey state flags being flown at half-mast in her honor, as ordered by Governor Chris Christie.

 

Because the opposite simply defies common sense.

 

If Houston was not a police officer gunned down in the line of duty, nor a military hero killed in a war zone, that means that the hugely significant act of lowering the flags in deference to her was because she was…. a singer?

 

Really, Governor?  A singer?  That’s what it’s come down to in Jersey?  Sure, Whitney Houston was a Jersey native, proud of her Garden State roots.  And undeniably, she was one of the most dynamic pop stars of all time, changing the musical landscape forever and inspiring some of the brightest performers of today.

 

But she was just a singer.  That’s not to minimize her accomplishments, as they are many, but let’s cut through the emotion and talk brass tacks.  She was a popular singer, past her prime, with a not-exactly stellar personal history. 

 

Play word association with most people about Whitney Houston, and they will tell you two things: great singer and crack addict.

 

That’s reason enough not to elevate Houston to god-like status.  While Christie can’t control the media’s nauseating coverage of all things Whitney, he certainly could have sent a message by NOT lowering the flags for her.  By doing so, Houston is now perceived, more than she ever has been, as a special role model, one for whom the Government has issued its seal of approval. 

 

And despite Christie’s protests to the contrary, that’s exactly what has happened as a result of his bad decision. Trite as it sounds that honoring Houston in such a fashion condones her behavior — both good and bad — it also happens to be true.

 

And where does it end?  What is the litmus test for getting flags lowered on your behalf? Once the hallowed territory of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to their countrymen, Christie has now changed the rules forever.  And is that really what we want from our governmental leaders — their interpretation of who merits the honor, and who doesn’t?

 

If Jon Bon Jovi — a Jersey Boy — happens to meet his Maker next week, will the Guv give him the same special treatment?  And what is the threshold? Record sales? Movie appearances? Rehab stints?

More ominous is to ponder Bon Jovi’s flag fate had he died before Whitney.  Would Christie have honored him the same way?  And if not, would that have been because Bon Jovi wouldn’t have provided the same perceived political benefit?

 

“Wow, what a callous, crass and out-of-line statement!” So will be the response of many Houston fans who will take such a possibility as a personal affront to Whitney and her family, but the point remains a valid one, and that bring us to two possibilities:

 

1) Is Christie’s move a political calculation, pandering to constituencies that are not in his camp? And if so, is the Governor’s attempt at making inroads with the black community and young hipsters done to seem more “moderate and compassionate,” both perceived necessities when running for President or Vice President?

 

If that is the case, it is a massive miscalculation on three counts.  First, he won’t win over those constituencies because he lowers flags.  He can only do so by sticking to his core convictions, explaining to them why his vision will benefit them more than failed Democratic policies.  Second, he has now alienated an influential part of his natural base — active and retired police and military personnel. In their eyes, his action has cheapened the sacrifices their fallen brethren have made, putting those fallen heroes on par with a drug-addicted millionaire Hollywood entertainer.  Last, such perceived political posturing doesn’t sit well with the vast majority of  regular, non-political citizens.  They may not see his motives as politically calculated, but many see his decision as a total lack of good judgment.

 

2) Of course, there may be absolutely no political calculation whatsoever, with Christie making his decision on a human level only.  This author, for one, would certainly like to think so, as no media commentator has defended Christie’s bulldog approach to tough issues more than Freindly Fire (and, to be fair, hammered him when he was wrong, such as “HelicopterGate”).

 

But that is exactly why politicians should not be lowering flags and honoring anyone they happen to like.  The nature of politicians is such that everything they do is perceived to be calculated, that their every move is an ulterior motive to curry favor with a particular constituency.

 

Why wasn’t the solemn act of lowering flags to honor real heroes left intact? Why is nothing sacred anymore? Why is common sense so incredibly uncommon these days, even by those from whom we expect more?

 

Perception is reality, and the growing perception — from both the media’s nonstop Whitney coverage and Chris Christie stamping his imprimatur on her entire life — is that she should be emulated and admired as one of the nation’s great role models.

 

To those entities, a suggestion.  If you want to honor her legacy, go buy her albums.  Otherwise, it’s time to exhale, come down from your drug-induced state, and realize that Whitney Houston is no…. Michael Jackson.

An accredited member of the media, 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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February 17, 2012 at 2:07 pm Comment (1)

Opposing Drug Testing For Welfare Recipients? Are You High?

Randomly testing all public workers is simply common sense

Random drug testing of welfare recipients and public workers is racist, discriminatory and blatantly unconstitutional.

And if believe any of that, you’re smoking something.

Once again, the drug testing issue is making headlines in Pennsylvania, as such a program is now underway. Unfortunately, because the Legislature dragged its feet (what else is new?), the current initiative is a scaled-down version of the original bill, and has been put into effect via an emergency budgetary order from the Governor. It only applies to welfare recipients who have been convicted of a felony in the last five years or are currently on parole or probation.

Too bad.  It should include every single non-elected person receiving a paycheck courtesy of John Q. Taxpayer.

(The only officials who should be exempted from mandated drug testing are elected officials, though that position is sure to generate hoots and hollars from the cheap seats.  The rationale is simple: they are elected by the people. They are not collecting government assistance checks, nor are they hired as civil service workers. True, much of what we see from elected officials leaves us wondering if they’re all on drugs.  And yes, at first glance it seems hypocritical for lawmakers to enact laws that they themselves do not have to follow, but they are in the unique position of being employed directly by the people. What’s next? A State Rep fails the test and is stripped of his seat? Not practical, probably unconstitutional, and a very dangerous precedent.  Would these elected office holders be smart to voluntarily take a drug test? Absolutely, because if they don’t, they’ll be unsuccessfully explaining themselves all the way to the ballot box.)

Remember the point of state-mandated drug testing: to ascertain whether someone receiving money — given to them by hardworking Pennsylvania taxpayers — is breaking the law by using those funds on illegal drugs. It is not to put people behind bars, but to ensure that they are clean and not abusing taxpayer dollars.

Proof that this is not a conspiratorial police-state tactic designed to incarcerate the state’s drug users, but a program to simply ensure responsible stewardship of the people’s money?

Consumption of drugs is not illegal. Manufacturing, distribution and possession of illicit narcotics is. And since having drugs in one’s system is not legally considered “possession,” no one failing a drug test would be arrested.

*****

Taxpayers have an absolute right to know that their money isn’t going to welfare recipients’ drug habits.  No one has a gun to his head to go on public assistance, just like no one forces people to work at a private sector company that mandates drug tests.  It’s part of the deal— take it or leave it.

Seemingly lost in the debate is that drug testing isn’t a discriminatory act against select individuals, but is increasingly common throughout all of society.  Many companies require applicants to pass a drug test as a condition of employment, for obvious, common sense reasons. No business wants drug users on the job, as they would be high-risk, untrustworthy employees who would undoubtedly threaten not just productivity, but company stability.

It’s key to remember that public assistance is supposed to help the recipient and his/her family survive; it should never be used carelessly, especially for something illegal.  Since drugs are illegal, if recipients can’t prove themselves to be clean, they should receive no benefits.  It’s that simple. Public benefits are a privilege, not a right, just like driving or flying. If people choose not to abide by the rules, that’s fine. But it’s simply arrogant to think one is entitled to these benefits without any conditions.

Here are some of the more disingenuous arguments the pro-druggie side likes to use:

Argument: Welfare recipients are no more likely to use drugs than the rest of the population.

Answer: Who cares?  That’s completely irrelevant. It doesn’t matter what the percentages are, although that claim is certainly suspect.  The majority of the population isn’t directly receiving taxpayer-funded benefits. For those who are, drug testing should be the rule.  Don’t like it?  Fine.  Get a job. And if you have a public sector job, be thankful you do and act responsibly to keep it.  You work for the people. It’s their money.

 

Argument: Drug testing is expensive.

Answer: If the government starts operating like a business, and aggressively negotiates volume discounts with private testing companies, the price isn’t that high.  This common sense expenditure would surely even pass Tea Party muster.  By definition, Government must spend money, but should do so smartly and efficiently. The testing should be for all new applicants, and random testing of the entire public pool thereafter, somewhere in the five to ten percent range.

And financially and ethically, what is the cost of having taxpayers subsidize a crack addict’s drug habit?

 

Argument: The ACLU challenged the mandatory drug testing program as unconstitutional, arguing that drug testing of welfare recipients violates the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches, labeling it “intrusive.”

Answer: That’s insulting to every citizen NOT on the public dole. First, the anti-testing folks, including legislators and the ACLU, are not Supreme Court justices, so it’s not up to them to determine constitutionality.  Second, odds are certainly favorable that given the makeup of both the state and U.S. Supreme Court, mandatory drug testing would be upheld. Welfare recipients arern’t being forced to do anything. They choose to apply for welfare.  After that, they must abide by the conditions placed upon them in return for receiving public money.

 

Argument: Random drug testing is thinly-veiled racism, and an attempt to demonize public sector workers by lumping them into the (false) public perception that all welfare recipients are drug-using, inner city dregs of society.

Answer: I wouldn’t have believed these accusations could be made with a straight face, but that’s exactly what was thrown at me during two televised debates on this issue. Such weak arguments only serve to bolster what most people instinctively know: random drug testing of those receiving taxpayer money is sound policy that serves to weed out bad apples and preserve the integrity of “charitable” giving.

Given that a Democratic Senator, John Wozniak, is the prime sponsor of the Pennsylvania bill, and his Party loves to bill itself as the defender of the poor, minorities and public sector workers, those charges don’t stand up for a second.

They are so ridiculous on their face that they shouldn’t need rebutting, but it bears repeating: this issue has nothing to do with race (many on public assistance are White), and zero to do with demonizing public sector workers and unions (as many in the private sector are tested as well).  It has everything to do with the reasonable expectation of taxpayers that their money be used for humanitarian purposes (public assistance) and an intelligent, stable and productive workforce (public sector employees).

*****

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart ran a comedic segment, with one of its “reporters” interviewing the Florida legislator who sponsored a similar bill, and Rick Scott, the Sunshine State’s Governor who also championed the drug testing cause. Both men are right on the issue, but may have lost the PR battle, looking downright foolish at times.  That’s a shame, because it’s communication miscues like those in that interview that sets the issue back in other states, giving credence to otherwise baseless arguments that should have been smoked from the get-go.

It’s not what you say, but how you say it. So in Pennsylvania, let’s say it loud and clear: “This is your paycheck (a lot of taxpayer money).  And this is your paycheck on drugs: Absolutely nothing!”

Finally something worth inhaling.

 

An accredited member of the media, 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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February 13, 2012 at 10:26 am Comments (6)

Rendell As Inquirer Owner? Might As Well Be Philly Enquirer

A Jerry Maguire-like treatise for how to resurrect the media’s credibility

 

Famed political strategist James Carville once referred to Pennsylvania as two major cities with Alabama in between.  What an insult to Alabama.

 

The folks in the nation’s fifth-largest state — all of them — are the backwards ones, the sad result of refusing to hold their leaders accountable for broken campaign promises and abject failures. All the while, their neighboring states — AKA “the competition” — continue to make gains at Pennsylvania’s expense.

 

Ohio and West Virginia are successfully courting natural gas and oil companies, which are beginning to exit Pennsylvania. Indiana is thriving after enacting comprehensive statewide school choice and becoming a Right To Work state, where compulsory unionism is no required as a condition of employment.

 

New Jersey (yes, Jersey!) can woo companies across the river because of faith that a real leader, Chris Christie, is righting the ship.  Everyone else on the planet can buy liquor easier and cheaper than Pennsylvanians.  And corruption, both criminal and institutionalized, remains rampant, killing optimism and trampling the hope that you can beat City Hall.

 

From Ed Rendell to Tom Corbett (is there a difference?), a lack of leadership has left Pennsylvania on the precipice, its citizens staring into the abyss of permanent mediocrity, paralyzed by fear to take the risks necessary to forge ahead. Such a malaise is anathema to employers looking for economic stability, a less hostile atmosphere and a better educational system.

 

While that lack of leadership is inexcusable, there is another, even more important factor as to why the state finds itself in such a precarious situation: a media that has sold its soul, forsaking its most basic mission of holding everyone accountable, with a “no sacred cows” approach. For far too long, stories that needed to be told were relegated to the dustbin. And unsavory politicians and business leaders counted on that. Without an aggressive press, it was, and remains, the Wild West where bad guys operate with impunity.

 

There is no better example of the media’s fall from grace than that of the Philadelphia Inquirer.  Once a paper of national significance that took a bulldog approach to its reporting, it has since become a shell of its former self, an also-ran full of AP feeds and local fluff stories of virtually no interest.

 

The Inky really jumped the tracks was when it was “led” by Brian Tierney, who, along with investors, paid over half a billion for the paper (and the Daily News) in 2006.

Mired in debt, Tierney did the unthinkable — he approached then-Governor Rendell for a taxpayer-funded bailout to keep the papers afloat in 2009, a story that Freindly Fire broke ( http://freindlyfirezone.com/home/item/43-possible-inquirer-bailout-draws-ire ) and was picked up by the Wall Street Journal in its harshly-worded editorial “Bad News In Philadelphia — The Worst Bailout Idea So Far: Newspapers.”

 

WSJ Link

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123353263226537457.html

 

 

Predictably, Rendell was ready and willing to lend that helping hand.  But as negative fallout for the bailout plan grew, the deal fell apart and the papers filed for bankruptcy.

 

Despite what common sense unquestionably tells us — that a taxpayer-funded newspaper would in fact be an “adjunct of the state,” as the WSJ so adroitly described it — the players in that ill-fated bailout attempt saw nothing wrong with their actions.

 

Thankfully, Tierney is out of the picture, having lost the papers to an investor group who held much of the original debt.  But incomprehensibly, the situation has come full circle. Now the current owners want out, and it has been reported that none other than Ed Rendell has been approached to put together an investor group to possibly buy the papers.

 

Really?  Ed Rendell?  How is that even remotely possible?

 

Where is the journalistic integrity in working with the very man who stood cocked, ready to unleash millions in taxpayer funds to bail out an “independent” media entity?  It’s no secret that it has become increasingly difficult for papers to make a profit in the age of The New Media, but having Rendell as your “Go-To” man underscores just how desperate the situation has become.

 

Taking marching orders from elected officials destroys the very essence of being a journalist and jeopardizes the unique constitutional protections afforded to media members.  Sure, Ed Rendell is a private citizen now, but his mentality — how he sees the role of the government working hand-in-hand with the media — has undoubtedly not changed.

 

But the behavior of the Inquirer’s ownership should come as no surprise, given that it recently accepted a $2.9 million loan from the City of Philadelphia to assist the company move to a new headquarters. Yes, the same city, the same Mayor and the same City Council that the newspapers are supposed to be objectively covering.  Is nothing scared anymore?

 

The last thing the region needs is an investor group led by political insiders and ideologically-supercharged individuals with aggressive personal agendas.  As painful as it would be for the thousands of hard-working folks at the those newspapers, it would be better for the entire entity to close its doors than be associated with folks who may, at any given time, make a pitch for public financing.

 

And while past performance is not indicative of future results, it’s a damn good bet.

 

Better to have no paper at all than one that prostrates itself at the feet of the very people it purports to objectively cover.  And since the Philadelphia newspapers have been anything but a watchdog over the last six years, churning out less than a handful of quality investigations, the bad guys would see virtually no difference, since they’re not exactly sweating investigative reporters knocking on their doors.

 

 

Where The Media Went Wrong
The sad reality is that The Fourth Estate has abdicated its sacred responsibility of keeping American institutions honest and true. No longer respected as the entity which holds feet to the fire and follows investigations wherever they may lead, the American media has instead become part and parcel of the Establishment. Too many journalists play the “go-along, get-along” game — some because it’s easy, others because they want to be liked, still others who are afraid they will lose “access” if they ask the tough questions.

 

These people have forgotten that their profession does not lend itself to having “friends,” since nothing and no one should ever be off the table. The result of these close alliances is blatant conflicts of interest, both personal and professional.  Once that line is crossed, it is nearly impossible to return.

 

No medium is immune from this malady.  Those in television, radio, newspaper and internet are all complicit. As an entity, the media has fallen down on its most basic journalistic responsibilities, losing its integrity, and ultimately its credibility, along the way.

Consequently, the public’s view of the media is at an historic low.  And while complaints abound that the media is biased, which to a certain extent it is, this is but a symptom of a much greater illness.  A slant towards liberalism or conservatism is wrong, to be sure, but inherent laziness and, by extension, incompetence, are the first problems that must be rectified. Competence and vision will trump bias every time.

 

Resurrecting the media’s image is a Herculean task. And when the free press reaches the point where it is no longer believed, it stands on the edge of becoming completely irrelevant.

 

Whether it is nauseating nonstop coverage of Anna Nicole Smith’s funeral procession or feel-good fluff stories in our nation’s pre-eminent newspapers, the lack of hard-hitting investigative reporting and aggressive interviews with top national and international leaders is appalling. Producers and editors are constantly looking over their shoulders at the competition, choosing to push out content to be like “every other station,” passing on golden opportunities to be different, to be journalists to be leaders.

 

These people spend more time trying to keep their jobs than actually doing them.

 

There is a certain irony here. If media executives produced the quality work that the American people expect, their ratings would skyrocket, and advertisers would pay a premium.  The biggest myth being propagated about the bankruptcy of media companies is that they are victims of the economy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

They are victims of their own ineptitude.

 

Americans still have an unquenchable thirst for the news, but they are increasingly tuning out the mainstream media because the content is utterly lacking of substance.

 

The solution is simple — it’s just not easy. Nothing and no one should be off the table.  Not politicians, government officials, businessmen, media personalities, sports stars, nor celebrities. With no agenda except the truth, the media should pursue stories with no boundaries and no restrictions.

 

*****

Americans don’t gravitate to question marks, but exclamation points.  It’s time to put the exclamation point back in the American press, not through new technologies and gimmicks, but by pursuing the only thing that matters: the truth.

 

As the voice in the classic baseball movie Field Of Dreams commanded, “Build it and they will come.” In the same way, if the media gets off its duff and starts producing content worthy of the world’s best press, readers and viewers will come — in unprecedented numbers.

 

Unfortunately, if Ed Rendell takes over Philadelphia’s newspapers, the ballpark will be empty before the new game even begins.

 

 

 

An accredited member of the media, 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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February 7, 2012 at 1:25 pm Comments (2)

Hey Chris Christie, Get On The Treadmill — You May Be President

Don’t Be Surprised If Romney and Gingrich Bow Out At The End

 

About the only job better than weatherman — where you can get it wrong half the time and still remain employed — is political pundit.  These guys make an art out of looking dumb, and doing so with authority.

 

In the last few years alone, we have been told that Obama had zero chance of beating Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney was sure to be the GOP nominee in 2008, and now, the President can’t win re-election because Romney will beat him.  That last prediction, of course, is predicated upon Romney winning the Republican nomination, which the pundit brain trust is now telling us is a done deal after Mitt’s victory in Florida.

 

But just as it wasn’t over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor, as Blutarsky taught us in Animal House, this race is far from over.

 

And the most comedic part is that the “experts” don’t even know it.  If they just took a walk outside their ivory towers, they would discover that there are still many elections — not coronations — yet to come, and that Newt Gingrich hasn’t been vanquished.

 

This is not to say that Romney won’t end up the winner.  In fact, that’s a good bet since he has money and organization advantages over Gingrich. But to say it’s all but over is simply foolish.

 

Cutting through the pundits’ white noise, it is worth looking at where the race really stands. Never before have there been three different winners in the first three contests, so that alone should be a caution sign for traditional predictions. Mitt Romney has won two of the four contests, including the winner-take-all state of Florida, and yet the total number of delegates awarded so far amounts to just five percent.

 

Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, for various reasons, cannot win the nomination, but they can and will garner delegates, as many states award delegates on a proportional basis based on popular vote.

 

Without question, Gingrich will be in the hunt for the long haul. Following a disappointing fifth-place finish in New Hampshire, after which the “experts” wrote him off for good, he roared back to a thundering victory in South Carolina. In all likelihood, he will win a number of states on Super Tuesday, and in the contests that he doesn’t, will post strong second place finishes.

 

(There is another reason for Gingrich to stay in the race: the possibility that Romney will say or do something that would catastrophically implode his candidacy.  Mitt came close this week when he said “I’m not concerned about the very poor…You can focus on the very poor, that’s not my focus.” Such blunders run in the family, as his father, former Michigan Governor George, crushed his quite viable presidential aspirations by stating he was “brainwashed” into supporting the Vietnam War.  The game was over the very instant he uttered that word.)

 

Short of a Romney implosion, Gingrich won’t win the nomination outright, but the impact of his candidacy could be substantially greater: he may deny Romney the prize.  If the three “challengers” to Romney can keep Mitt from attaining that “fifty percent plus one” number, it’s a whole new ballgame.

 

And while such a scenario was unthinkable to many pundits just a few weeks ago, it is becoming increasingly plausible.

 

An often overlooked but extremely important factor in determining the nominee is that many of the states have different legal rules concerning their delegates.  A handful of states, including delegate-rich Pennsylvania, do NOT require their delegates to commit for the candidate who won the state.  Put in layman’s terms, come convention time, delegates from the Keystone State can cast votes for any person they wish, whether or not the candidate won the state or even participated in the primary process.

 

Obviously, in normal election years, Party unity is assured because the nominee is determined early in the process.  But this year is anything but normal.  And there is precedent for delegates breaking ranks.

 

In 1980, George H.W. Bush handily won the primary election in Pennsylvania over Ronald Reagan.  The Reagan folks knew they weren’t going to win, so they pulled a coup by ensuring that the delegates elected were loyal to The Gipper. So despite Bush winning by 100,000 votes, Reagan emerged with roughly 70 percent of the state’s delegates morally committed to him.

 

Given that situation, a major concern for Romney is getting the right delegates to achieve the right majority.  But since Mitt has been running for President for five years, spent hundreds of millions in that endeavor, and still can’t come close to getting 50 percent of GOP primary voters, that might be a daunting task.

 

While still a “long shot” scenario, don’t be surprised that, after all the states have voted, no one emerges a winner.  If neither Romney nor Gingrich can successfully make a deal with Paul or Santorum to acquire their delegates, the country may see two men who despise each other hold a joint press conference announcing that, for the good of the Party, they are withdrawing from the campaign and releasing their delegates.

 

And then it would become the Wild West. Backroom conventioneering would take on a life of its own, with countless deals being struck to choose the most unifying Republican ticket to take on Obama.

 

And who might top that list?  Well, put it this way. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie would do well to start using a treadmill. More than anyone else, Christie’s ability to tell it like it is, take no prisoners, and bulldog his way to success — despite major Democratic majorities in the state assembly — make him a Party favorite.  He is one of a very few who commands respect by the Establishment, rank-and-file grassroots activists, and Tea Parties alike.

 

Republicans, Democrats and Independents may not always agree with Christie, but they always know where he stands, and his speak-from-the-heart style is a breath of fresh air in a world of sound bites, talking points and focus groups.

 

Christie may have foreseen this scenario, possibly explaining why he declined to run in the brutal primaries. And for those who predict Christie as a Romney VP, forget it.  He is nobody’s Number Two, and almost certainly would not sign on to a meaningless ceremonial post when he could have, quite possibly, captured the top prize for himself had he wanted to do so.

 

Should Christie decline an offer made at a brokered convention, the list of frontline candidates grows relatively thin, but undoubtedly Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and, dare we say it — Jeb Bush! — would certainly be in play.

 

This scarcity of good candidates is testament to what happens when a political party refuses to build its bench with folks who actually believe in things, instead promoting those whose “turn it is.” Look no further than Bob Dole and John McCain. It’s pretty sad that in the election many Republicans are calling the most important in American history, the GOP can muster so few viable contenders.

 

No matter how it eventually plays out, the battle for the Republican nomination will go on for at least the next four months, and that’s a good thing. Despite the conventional wisdom as postulated by pundits that divisive primaries only serve to weaken the Party’s candidates and needlessly give an advantage to the opponent, the opposite is true. Combative and lengthy primaries make candidates stronger, sharper and better prepared for the rigors of a general election presidential campaign. Barack Obama proved that in his protracted battle with Hillary.

 

And given that Obama is in the driver’s seat to emerge victorious in November, a long primary season — and even a brokered convention — could be just what the doctor ordered to energize the Republican Party and unify what is now a very discontented base.

 

President Christie, anyone?

An accredited member of the media, 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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February 4, 2012 at 11:18 am Comment (1)

Un-settling on Romney

I hereby rescind my previous tepid support for Romney.  This bit about indexing the minimum wage to inflation is the straw that finally broke this camel’s back.

Don’t get me wrong, I acknowledge that he’s the frontrunner. If he’s the nominee, wild horses couldn’t stop me from voting for Romney over Barack Obama. But I really can’t get behind the guy.

Romneycare would typically be disqualifying in and of itself.  But if Newt is the main rival, one can hardly get excited about a Romney alternative who has himself supported an individual mandate for health insurance.  (And not just back in the HillaryCare days, but in 2011.)

And then we discover Romney’s support for indexing the minimum wage to inflation, which is –to borrow a Newt-onian expression– deeply and profoundly stupid.

Any minimum wage has its unintended consequences — notably, higher unemployment among those at the bottom of the economic ladder.  Raising it exacerbates those consequences.  Indexing it to inflation introduces an entirely new variety of error. MinWage will rise disproportionately nearing the end of the economic cycle.  Then, inevitably, we will have a recession.

Simple question: Will we allow the minimum wage to fall in a deflationary environment? I’m thinking not.

If the answer is no, then the auto-magically increased minimum wage make it just that much harder to hire low-end labor every single time we have a recession.

And for those of you who believe that wage inflation promotes general inflation (–I’m not one of those people), then you’ve also created a feedback loop for inflation.  (Inflation –> MinWage increase –> Inflation…)

Time to look at Santorum again?  Maybe.

My biggest gripe against our former Senator was message discipline. But as we’ve seen, the other two are probably worse.  It’s something to chew on, anyway.

Either that, or the Sweet Meteor of Death. (#SMOD)

February 3, 2012 at 7:40 am Comment (1)

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