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The GOP Tax Cuts Are a Blatant Scam

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Tax Refund Received

Joshua Holland of The Nation reports:

But it’s the brazenness with which the Republican Party abandoned any last remaining pretense of caring about deficits or federal spending that may come back to haunt them, and mark a shift in the political landscape around taxes and spending. It goes further than the $1.9 trillion in additional deficits, including higher payments on the national debt, that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects will result from the tax bill over the next 10 years. When the nonpartisan number crunchers evaluated the fiscal impact of all of the legislation passed since mid-2017, including new spending, their analysis found that the GOP will add $2.6 trillion to the deficit over that period. What’s more, as Catherine Rampell noted in The Washington Post, that assumes that the economy will continue growing apace, and that the “temporary” individual tax cuts will expire according to the written law. But recent history suggests otherwise—most of George W. Bush’s budget-busting cuts were made permanent under Obama. In CBO’s worst-case scenario, “deficits would be larger by an average of a full percentage point of GDP, rising by a total of $2.6 trillion to yield a cumulative deficit of nearly $15 trillion” over the next 10 years.

Then, having created massive deficits for as far as the eye can see, House Republicans had the chutzpah to try to pass a constitutional amendment that would bar future Congresses from running any deficits at all. It’s a remarkably stupid policy. Running deficits isn’t inherently a bad thing if the purpose is to stimulate the economy during a recession or address a national emergency. The problem with these deficits is that they come at a time when the economy is growing and mostly just enrich the wealthy and pump up corporate profits.

(click here to continue reading The GOP Tax Cuts Are Such a Blatant Scam That They Might Change the Whole Conversation | The Nation.)

Paul Ryan’s real legacy is this. GOP-style austerity only applies to social safety net programs, not corporate tax give-aways.

And as Holland mentions in his article, Democrats like Senator Brian Schatz note the GOP fiscal hypocrisy.

Look At All These People Who Care About Your Taxes 

Vox reports on Senator Schatz’s plan for making college more affordable, and includes this exchange:

But overall, Schatz sees little appetite from his Republican colleagues to reform the system. And with hastily passed GOP tax cuts estimated to add $1 trillion to the national deficit over the next decade, Schatz said he’s not yet going to wade into details of how he’ll pay for his plan because he thinks there’s a double standard with Republicans and Democrats.

“I don’t play the pay-for game. I reject the pay-for game,” he said. “After the Republicans did the $1.5 trillion in unpaid-for tax cuts, and as we’re doing a bipartisan appropriations bill — which I support — which is also an increase in federal spending [that’s] unpaid for … I just reject the idea that only progressive ideas have to be paid for. We can work on that as we go through the process, but I think it’s a trap.”

And he’s under no impression that his bill will gain traction in the current Republican-controlled Congress, especially given the tumult of news swirling around President Donald Trump and few signs from Republicans that they’re going to seriously entertain the issue.

“One of the things I have observed among Republicans — and part of it is that they’re just unserious about governing in the first place, but I certainly observed on health care that they had no actual legislative program once they got the gavels,” Schatz said. “And I think it’s important for us to draw a clear contrast with Republicans over the rest of the year, but also be ready to govern.”

 

(click here to continue reading Exclusive: Sen. Brian Schatz’s ambitious new plan for debt-free college, explained – Vox.)

Written by Seth Anderson

April 17th, 2018 at 9:27 pm

Posted in politics

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Betsy DeVos is a demon – School choice gutted Detroit’s public schools

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Erected by the Board of Education 1892
Erected by the Board of Education 1892.

From Vice before the demon DeVos was (barely) confirmed to be Trump’s Education minister:

The gutting of Detroit’s public schools is the result of an experiment started 23 years ago, when education reformers including Betsy DeVos, now Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Education Department, got Michigan to bet big on charters and school choice. The Obama administration has promoted competition, but DeVos looks set to take free-market education policy to new heights. She has made clear her goal is to use charters to eventually get public dollars to private and religious schools, but the consequences of her school choice policy in Detroit leave gaping questions about how she will also care for America’s public schools.

In Detroit, choice has come largely at the expense of the traditional public school district and schools like Oakman. As students joined new charters, public school enrollment and funding fell. Unregulated competition pushed these schools into near-unrecoverable insolvency and allowed dubious for-profit charter operators to prosper without establishing a track record of better outcomes for students. A 2014 analysis showed 17 percent of Detroit charter school students were rated proficient in math, versus 13 percent of traditional public school students. Last year less than 1 percent of the city’s schools got an A or B+ rating from Excellent Schools Detroit, a local reform group that provides school information to families. Nearly 70 percent earned a D+ or lower, and 40 percent of those bottom-performers were charters. Earlier this year, seven Detroit students sued the state of Michigan for failing to provide basic access to literacy — two of the kids were enrolled in local charter schools.

(click here to continue reading School choice gutted Detroit’s public schools. The rest of the country is next. – VICE News.)

Charter schools performing even worse than gutted public schools, yet still being promoted is like Supply Side Economics still being promoted despite a single success story.

Washington Elementary School
Washington Elementary School

Relevant because Ms. DeVos spluttered and muttered her way through an interview aired on 60 Minutes March 11th, 2018:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos appeared on CBS’s “60 Minutes” Sunday night and stumbled in answering questions that journalist Lesley Stahl asked during a pointed interview.

Stahl repeatedly challenged the education secretary, at one point suggesting that DeVos should visit underperforming public schools to learn about their problems. DeVos responded, “Maybe I should.” The secretary also said she is “not so sure exactly” how she became, as Stahl described her, “the most hated” member of President Trump’s Cabinet but believes that she is “misunderstood.”

DeVos, who rarely gives interviews to journalists, is a longtime school choice advocate who once said that traditional public education is “a dead end,” and she has made clear that her top priority as the nation’s education chief is expanding alternatives to traditional public schools. She is  a champion of using public funds for private and religious school education, and critics say she is determined to privatize public education. DeVos has denied that.

DeVos, a billionaire who has spent millions of dollars on school efforts in her home state of Michigan, has been perhaps the most controversial of Trump’s Cabinet members. She became the first Cabinet nominee in history to need a tie-breaking vote from the vice president to be confirmed by the Senate. Her January 2017 confirmation hearing before the Senate education panel was marked by her inability to answer basic questions about education.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, more than a year after becoming education secretary, DeVos again had trouble answering questions and seemed to contradict herself.

 

(click here to continue reading Education Secretary Betsy DeVos stumbles during pointed ‘60 Minutes’ interview – The Washington Post.)

Why go To Night School
Why go To Night School?

and as Philip Bump reports:

 

“In places where there is a lot of choice that’s been introduced,” DeVos told CBS’s Lesley Stahl, “Florida, for example, studies show that when there’s a large number of students that opt to go to a different school or different schools, the traditional public schools actually, the results get better as well.”

 This is DeVos’s core case. Introducing charter schools forces public schools into the sort of competition you see in the free market, forcing the public institutions to improve. It’s a market-based proposal for solving the endemic problem of low-performing schools. Florida, DeVos argues, is an example of where it works.

 But Stahl was prepared for this.

 “Have the public schools in Michigan gotten better?” Stahl asked. Michigan is a key litmus test because it’s the place where DeVos’s pre-government advocacy was centered. DeVos stumbled over a response.

 “Your argument that if you take funds away that the schools will get better is not working in Michigan,” Stahl said. “Where you had a huge impact and influence over the direction of the school system here.” She later added, “The public schools here are doing worse than they did.”

A 2009 study from the RAND corporation found “little evidence that the presence of charter schools affects the achievement scores of students in nearby traditional public schools either positively or negatively.” A number of studies since have found similarly murky results.

We can look at this another way. Using data from the Education Department, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the National Assessment of Educational Progress, we looked at how charter school enrollment and educational achievement looked in nearly 30 states between 2005 and 2015.

The educational achievement data indicated the percentage of students in fourth or eighth grade who’d attained basic proficiency in math and reading. We compared the change in those four percentages with the national change from 2005 to 2015. Then, we cross-referenced those changes with the increase in charter school student enrollment as a percentage of public school enrollment. (In other words, if there were 10 charter and 20 public school students in 2005 and 15 charter and 25 public in 2015, the percent change was from 50 percent to 60 percent — an increase of 10 percentage points.)

Overall, the correlation was small, meaning that you couldn’t predict an increase in achievement in math and reading proficiency based on the increase in charter school enrollment. The strongest link was in eighth-grade reading scores

 

 

(click here to continue reading Why it was so easy for ’60 Minutes’ to rebut Betsy DeVos’s charter-school arguments – The Washington Post.)

She is just another Trumpian demon, intent upon dismantling the America we know so that Trump can become dictator-for-life. 

Written by Seth Anderson

March 12th, 2018 at 10:10 am

Posted in government,politics

Tagged with ,

Label The Lawmakers

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Erected by the Board of Education 1892

I hope John Kuhn, father of three, doesn’t mind me quoting his entire letter to the Mineral Wells, Texas, newspaper. Mr. Kuhn makes a few excellent points, I’ll let him articulate them:

Stop labeling teachers, label the lawmakers

Dear Editor,

The age of accountability should be renamed the age of blame, when teachers wear the scarlet letter for the failings of a nation. We send teachers into pockets of poverty that our leaders can’t or won’t eradicate, and when those teachers fail to work miracles among devastated children, we stamp ‘unacceptable’ on their foreheads.

I ask you, where is the label for the lawmaker whose policies fail to clean up the poorest neighborhoods? Why do we not demand that our leaders make “Adequate Yearly Progress”? We have data about poverty, health care, crime, and drug abuse in every legislative district. We know that those factors directly impact our ability to teach kids. Why have we not established annual targets for our legislators to meet? Why do they not join us beneath these vinyl banners that read “exemplary” in the suburbs and “unacceptable” in the slums?

Let us label lawmakers like we label teachers, and we can eliminate 100 percent of poverty, crime, drug abuse, and preventable illness by 2014! It is easy for elected officials to tell teachers to “Race to the top” when no one has a stopwatch on them! Lace up your sneakers, Senators! Come race with us!

Teachers are surrounded by armchair quarterbacks who won’t lift a finger to help, only to point. Congressmen, come down out of those bleachers and strive with us against the pernicious ravages of poverty. We need more from you than blame. America’s education problem is actually a poverty problem.

If labels fix schools, let us use labels to fix our congresses! Let lawmakers show the courage of a teacher! Hold hands with us and let us march together into the teeth of this blame machine you have built. Let us hold this congressman up against that congressman and compare them just as we compare our schools. Congressmen, do not fear this accountability you have given us. Like us, you will learn to love it.

Or maybe lawmakers do such a wonderful job that we don’t need to hold them accountable?

Did you know that over the next five years, Texas lawmakers will send half a billion dollars to London, to line the pockets of Pearson’s stakeholders. That’s 15,000 teacher salaries, sacrificed at the altar of standardized testing. $500,000,000 for a test! I’m sure it’s a nice test, but it’s just a test. I’ve never seen a test change a kid’s life or dry a kid’s tear. Tests don’t show up at family funerals or junior high basketball games. They don’t chip in to buy a poor girl a prom dress. Only teachers do those things.

If times are desperate enough to slash local schools’ operating funds, then surely they are desperate enough to slash Pearson’s profits. Lawmakers, get your priorities straight. Put a moratorium on testing until we can afford it. Teachers are our treasure – let’s not lose the house just so we can keep our subscription to Pearson’s Test-of-the-Month Club. We have heard Texas senators often talk about the teacher-to-non-teacher ratio in our schools. Lawmakers, they are ALL non-teachers at Pearson. Don’t spend half a billion dollars that we don’t have on some test that is made in England.

Parents are so fed up with standardized testing that hundreds are now refusing to let their children test. They do not want their children run through this terrible punch press. They do not want standardized children. They want exceptional children!

Let me tell you Texas’s other dirty secret – some schools get three times the funding of other schools. Some schools get $12,000 per student, while others get $4,000. Did you know that every single child in Austin is worth $1,000 more than every single child in Fort Worth? Do you agree with that valuation? Congress does. They spend billions to fund this imbalance.

Now the architects of this inequity point at the salaries and staff sizes at the schools they have enriched to justify cuts at schools that have never been given enough. State Sen. Florence Shapiro, of Plano, says, essentially, yes, but we’re cutting the poor schools by less. Senator, you don’t take bread away from people in a soup line! Not even one crumb. And you should not take funds away from schools that you have already underfunded for years. It may be politically right to bring home the bacon, but ain’t right right.

Legislators, take the energy you spend shifting blame and apply it toward fixing the funding mechanisms. We elected you to solve the state’s problems, not merely to blame them on local government. After all, you have mandated local decision-making for years. Your FIRST rating system tells school boards that their district’s administrative cost ratio can be no higher than 0.2 percent. And over 95 percent of school districts in Texas are in compliance with the standard you have set. At my school, our administrative cost ratio is 0.06 percent – so could you please stop blaming me?

If 95 percent of schools are compliant with the administrative cost ratio indicator in the state’s financial rating system for schools, then why are state officials saying we have too much administration? We have the amount of administration they told us to have! Either they gave us bad guidance and we all followed it, or they gave us good guidance and just need someone other than themselves to blame for these cuts.

Is this the best we can do in Texas? I wish they would worry about students half as much as they worry about getting re-elected.

These same senators have a catchy new slogan: “Protect the Classroom.” I ask you, senators: who are we protecting the classroom from? You, that’s who. You are swinging the ax; don’t blame us for bleeding wrong.

They know that their cuts are so drastic that school boards will have no choice but to let teachers go, and I can prove it: while they give press conferences telling superintendents not to fire teachers, at the same time they pass laws making it easier for … you guessed it …administrators to fire teachers. Which is it, senators?

If we don’t truly need to cut teachers, then don’t pass the laws that reduce their employment protections. And if we truly do need to cut teachers, then go ahead and pass those laws but quit saying teacher cuts are the superintendents’ fault. Here’s the deal: I can accept cuts, but I cannot do anything but forcefully reject deceit.

Politicians, save your buck-passing for another day. We need leadership. Get to work, congressmen. Do your jobs, and find the revenue to fund my child’s education.

Sincerely,

John Kuhn, father of three, Perrin

(click here to continue reading Letters to the Editor – April 10, 2011 » Opinion » Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX.)

 

Written by Seth Anderson

April 15th, 2011 at 11:51 pm

Posted in government

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Research Upends Traditional Thinking on Study Habits

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Interesting research. Maybe this is why I always am reading several books at once, on varied topics? Who knows.Erected by the Board of Education 1892

Yet there are effective approaches to learning, at least for those who are motivated. In recent years, cognitive scientists have shown that a few simple techniques can reliably improve what matters most: how much a student learns from studying.

The findings can help anyone, from a fourth grader doing long division to a retiree taking on a new language. But they directly contradict much of the common wisdom about good study habits, and they have not caught on.

For instance, instead of sticking to one study location, simply alternating the room where a person studies improves retention. So does studying distinct but related skills or concepts in one sitting, rather than focusing intensely on a single thing.

The advantages of this approach to studying can be striking, in some topic areas. In a study recently posted online by the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, Doug Rohrer and Kelli Taylor of the University of South Florida taught a group of fourth graders four equations, each to calculate a different dimension of a prism. Half of the children learned by studying repeated examples of one equation, say, calculating the number of prism faces when given the number of sides at the base, then moving on to the next type of calculation, studying repeated examples of that. The other half studied mixed problem sets, which included examples all four types of calculations grouped together. Both groups solved sample problems along the way, as they studied.

A day later, the researchers gave all of the students a test on the material, presenting new problems of the same type. The children who had studied mixed sets did twice as well as the others, outscoring them 77 percent to 38 percent. The researchers have found the same in experiments involving adults and younger children.

“When students see a list of problems, all of the same kind, they know the strategy to use before they even read the problem,” said Dr. Rohrer. “That’s like riding a bike with training wheels.” With mixed practice, he added, “each problem is different from the last one, which means kids must learn how to choose the appropriate procedure — just like they had to do on the test.”

These findings extend well beyond math, even to aesthetic intuitive learning. In an experiment published last month in the journal Psychology and Aging, researchers found that college students and adults of retirement age were better able to distinguish the painting styles of 12 unfamiliar artists after viewing mixed collections (assortments, including works from all 12) than after viewing a dozen works from one artist, all together, then moving on to the next painter.

The finding undermines the common assumption that intensive immersion is the best way to really master a particular genre, or type of creative work, said Nate Kornell, a psychologist at Williams College and the lead author of the study. “What seems to be happening in this case is that the brain is picking up deeper patterns when seeing assortments of paintings; it’s picking up what’s similar and what’s different about them,” often subconsciously.

(click to continue reading Mind – Research Upends Traditional Thinking on Study Habits – NYTimes.com.)

I’m luckily not a teacher, but I do remember how I performed best in college exams: review the material a few days before the test, let it percolate, revisit the topics the night before, sleep well, and depending on how challenging the material, review a last time the morning of the exam. Of course, not all classes benefited from this sort of regime – too boring, or too many social activities conflicting, or whatever – but the tests that I studied for in different places, at different times, I nearly always aced. I also never crammed, more so because I was lazy, and there were other items on my agenda, but also because I never found staying up all night to give a good end result.

postscript – this correction amused me:

Correction: September 8, 2010

An article on Tuesday about the effectiveness of various study habits described incorrectly the Heisenberg uncertainty principle in physics. The principle holds that the act of measuring one property of a particle (position, for example) reduces the accuracy with which you can know another property (momentum, for example) — not that the act of measuring a property of the particle alters that property

Written by Seth Anderson

September 8th, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Posted in health

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