Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Diggapedia Manifesto: Living in the Middle

Here I am still stuck in the middle with most of you.
I believe that union failure to adopt a meritocracy versus last in/first out is a major roadblock to education reform.  I also believe that Federal and State Governments must work in concert in developing an education system that will return the US to a competitive position.  Our inability to produce sufficient scientists, engineers, and technologists is accelerating our competitive demise.   While we need to establish applicable metrics to track progress, the kind of change we need will not be addressed by teaching to a standardized test and solely measuring test scores to determine success or failure.  We are talking about a cultural shift that elevates education, school attendance, parent involvement, and progressive thinking.  And for once, can we study the best, no matter where it maybe, to improve instead of this nation’s fixation on studying the failures as a means of understanding success?
Debt and Deficits
Taxing just the rich will never be an effective deficit reduction plan and neither will simply cutting spending.  We need to increase tax revenues AND cut spending.  Current Medicare and Social Security systems are untenable and reform is desperately required that addresses costs, services, and funding.  Politicians need to be honest with their constituents because only the credible plan will include cuts in defense spending, social services, entitlement outlays as well as revenue enhancements from broadening and deepening the tax base.  The surest way to tackle our fiscal shortcomings is growth and this is why stimulus is required in the short term to keep the recovery moving forward at the expense of higher deficits.  With borrowing costs still remarkably low, now is the time to finance infrastructure investment.
The diverse solution is the best solution.  Yes that means, investment in newer technologies such solar, wind, and geothermal sources.  It also means we should be able to develop environmental, population, and worker safety conscious methods to extract coal, gas, and oil reserves to reduce foreign dependence and increase our own strategic reserves.  We should also not eliminate the need for nuclear energy; we need to understand risks and failure modes and instill robust controls and safeguard, based on the Japanese Fukushima disaster and other analyses.  Nuclear power supplies 20% of the nation’s energy needs and we need to continue to invest in safe modular plants.  But choices of supply are only half of the equation.  We need to reduce consumption through mandated efficiency standards in the home, in the factory, in the office and in the car.
I believe this nation, and the world for that matter, require tough and balanced financial regulations.  The unfettered highly leveraged, speculation driven, casino mentality on Wall Street needs to be reined in and regulated by an appropriate government agency.  The problem is that the Dodd-Frank Bill, as well intentioned as it was, is not the answer.  Between the lobbyists, over loquacious congressmen, and personal agendas, the Finance Reform Act is a thousand pages of tidbits of value and a whole lot love waste.  The law that created the American banking system in 1864 was 29 whopping pages, the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 was 32 pages, and the post 1929 crash banking reform act, known as Glass-Steagall, was 37 pages.  Dodd Frank is 848 pages and that doesn’t include the yet to be completed pages of rules that still need to be written.  Oh by the way, the Republicans have nothing to crow about as they have offered nothing of substance of which to replace Dodd-Frank.
So here I am in the middle wanting government to be more efficient and less partisan.  I want politicians to worry less about re-election and more about leading.  I want Americans to realize sacrifice will be required.  And I want everyone to realize that the majority of America is in the middle with tendencies to lean in multiple directions including forward.


  1. I agree with you completely on the issue of teacher's unions and merit. I work with a school system that has been failing for years..abysmally. Partly because the very powerful union protects incompetent teachers and partly because the administration themselves are poor. Knowing many people who work for school districts in which there are no unions, I agree there is some value of having teacher unions, but their bargaining power needs to be limited to things like working conditions. Unions have no business protecting incompetent teachers and administrators should toughen up and not allow them in the classroom. One common theme I see in failing school systems is that neither side puts the kids first.