teachers union

Recession? What Recession? The Good Times Are Rolling In The Insulated, Inside-The-Beltway Nation's Capital

No wonder the liberal politicians who control the House, Senate and presidency think the economy is flying: Their immediate surroundings are, in fact, humming. There is no recession in Washington, D.C., and when you stay insulated inside the beltway, and all you see is fat cats living it up from from $3.5 trillion in government spending, no wonder President Obama and Vice President Biden call this the :summer of recovery." Andrew Little, a Richmond investment banker with John B. Levy & Co. recently wrote in a Richmond Times-Dispatch column that the real estate market, which burst and led to the recession and remains in the tank around the country, is booming in Washington.

As one lender put it, "the closer you are to the printing press, the better chance you'll have of getting some business."

Another lender unfortunately described just how exclusive the area is that is attracting capital: "We are focused on Washington, D.C., but only inside the Beltway."

A recent sale of the Evening Star Building at 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington fetched a mind-boggling $790 a square foot, and there is talk that other buildings currently on the market will surpass $900 a square foot.

These numbers indicate a strong desire for investors to put their money into real estate again. But if "frenzied" describes Washington and four other markets, "frail" is more apt for virtually everywhere else.

He adds that interest rates in D.C. are lower than most markets (thus the "printing press" comment). He then notes a Memphis, Tenn., apartment building that sold for a minuscule $2.1 million after costs, or less than $2,500 per unit, even though the average price per unit nationally last year was $72,306. The lender eventually lost $37.3 million on the project. Since this doesn't qualify for pocket change in Washington, we doubt few in the leadership are raising a red flag of concern. But why should they? Not only is real estate booming in D.C., so, too, are salaries (see CNSNews.com).

According to a CBS News report yesterday:

Federal salaries have grown 33 percent faster than inflation. Their pay and benefits averaged $123,049 in 2009, up 36.9 percent since 2000. Private workers averaged $61,051, up just 8.8 percent during the same time.

Even when factoring out education and experience (federal workers have more of each), The Heritage Foundation's James Sherk found that federal employees get paid 22 percent more per hour on average than private-sector workers. The facts get worse. Conn Carroll of Heritage's The Foundry blog cites the Wall Street Journal's findings that personal incomes fell nationally last year except in markets with heavy concentrations of federal employees, as well as a USA Today report that federal salaries average double private sector wages.

Not only that, but Heritage research shows that while private sector jobs have decreased by 6.8 percent since December 2007, federal government jobs have grown 10 percent. Government work at all levels have added 64,000 new jobs in that period while the private sector has lost 7.8 million jobs. I could go on. For example, President Obama is pushing for a 1.4 percent raise for 2 million federal workers who also qualify for seniority raises, not to mention his most recent bailout, this one for the teachers union and rising pay and benefits for local and state employees.

So, the more people suffer, the less Washington liberals know what to do. They seem to care even less. From what they see, all is good.

We Had It First: Sampson To Run, Interesting Field Of Democrats

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports on its Web site this afternoon something we reported Wednesday: That Republican Ernesto Sampson will run for the 69th House of Delegates seat. Sampson, a financial services advisor and VMI grad, will make it official at a campaign kickoff event tomorrow. Interesting headline, however, from the T-D: "Republican expected to seek Hall's House seat," as if Democrat former Delegate Frank Hall owned it. But that's the mainstream media for you.

Sampson, who is originally from Suffolk, is black, and favors charter schools. Whichever one of the three Democrats he faces will create an interesting match-up: Antione M. Green, president of the Richmond Crusade for Voters; Betsy Carr, a Richmond School Board member; and Carlos Brown, a corporate finance lawyer. Green is only 30; Brown either doesn't live in the district yet, or has only moved into it recently; and Carr is white (as is Hall), while the district is majority black.

Depending on how bruising that battle is, and who the eventual nominee is, it may give Sampson an opening, based on race, experience or carpetbagging. Interesting issue note here: Carr was one of the five school board votes that barely approved Virginia's first charter elementary school last year, while Green was a tireless supporter for it. That can't make the powerful teachers union, which plays a big role in Democrat nomination fights, happy. That may cause a further rift. Sampson has made charter schools a major plank in his platform.

Virginia News Stand: April 30, 2009

We are back with the News Stand sooner than we thought, here at the close of business for April, where we learn, from the Wall Street Journal, that despite hundreds of billions of tax dollars spent since 1971, high school test scores have barely budged! How does that make you feel? Yet, the Commonwealth and the VEA seek more of your hard-earned money. In other news, one has to wonder that if the gubernatorial campaign is like this now, what will it be like come September? October? We've seen the Dem candidates try to out-pander themselves to the teachers union and to homosexual activists. Now, according the Washington Post, it's really getting nasty. On another burgeoning campaign issue, House Speaker Bill Howell and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell have whacked the ball back in Governor Kaine's court, requesting the governor's boss take the federal strings off before we accept it.

Meanwhile, the Democrat infighting is all to McDonnell's early advantage, as a news SurveyUSA poll has him leading all three Dems. However, looking at the survey's universe, it doesn't look to be the best indicator. Contrary to some other polling, it has Terry McAuliffe way out in front in the Democrat primary. Still, it confirms what the more reputable Rasmussen poll a few weeks ago suggests: That McDonnell is making inroads among the general electorate.

Finally, in a commentary, Bobby Eberle documents a disturbing aspect of the Obama administration, something of which we've commented upon: Namely, his disdain for anyone — politicians, media or now, what with the Tea Parties, common folk — who disagree with him. More than disdain, it's demonization . . . or worse. Now that the "hate crimes" bill has passed the House, we're one step closer to being arrested for expressing our opinions.

News:

McDonnell, Howell say Congress should remove strings from stimulus money (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Democrats vying for governor debate over gun issues, energy (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Tone Toughens in Race for Governor (Washington Post)

New poll puts McDonnell ahead of 3 Democratic candidates for governor (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Teachers Offer Lessons in Race for Governor (Washington Post)

Surrogates Sling Mud in Va. Race (Washington Post)

Democrat seeking Bedford House seat (Lynchburg News & Advance

Virginia seeks education funding (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

National News:

House bill offers gays greater protection (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Few Gains Are Seen in High School Test (Wall Street Journal)

Commentary:

Obama Marks 100 Days in Office . . . By Mocking Concerned Americans!(Bobby Eberle/GOPUSA.com)

Prophetic Article? A Must Read To Understand The Future

A Barack Obama presidency has me scared for a long time for a number of reasons. There's the pending economic socialism and the disregard for innocent human life, among many urgent issues. During the campaign the many to whom I expressed my concern would respond with the conventional wisdom that he'll mess it up and the country will swing back to conservatism in the mid-term elections, as in 1994. (That's a big "if," predicated on whether the so-called conservatives in Congress remain scared of their own shadows and remain addicted to "big-government conservatism.")  I would reply to those who responded that way, "Not so fast." Conventional wisdom and the old models don't apply anymore. With such large majorities in Congress and control of the White House, the extreme, Angry Left will ram through several initiatives to permanently seal its institutional advantages. For example, the liberal media, which crossed from only being biased to all out left wing advocacy this campaign, will be cemented by the passing of the so-called Fairness Doctrine, minimizing (if not completely eliminating) conservative talk radio. Advantage, Left Wing Media.

How about the so-called Freedom of Choice Act? Senator Obama said it's the first bill he would sign. It would eliminate all state restrictions on abortion. (No need for state legislatures, then, huh?) Gone would be all parental consent, notification and regulations against partial birth abortion. Advantage, the government grant and profit machine known as Planned Parenthood (see LifeSiteNews.com, here).

The union card check bill, if it becomes law (see The Las Vegas Sun, here), will end the secret ballot in union organizing campaigns. This will create countless new union shops. Aside from the economic peril of making American industry less competitive, this bill will add tens of thousands of new union members to union rolls — along with their compulsary dues, which go to union political action committees and used to elect leftist candidates. Advantage, corrupt Leftist union bosses.

The public education establishment, which largely dumbs down children K-12, and the college education establishment, which largely indoctrinates them because, by then, students have been conditioned to feel rather than think, will get new, large amounts of federal grants to run their politically correct campus societies, further preaching liberal doctrine under the guise of teaching, both in the classroom and in campus regulations such as speech codes. Advantage, Leftist educrats and teachers union leaders.

I could go on. But someone else has for me. Give me one more minute.

When I extolled this theory, some saw credence. Some thought the conventional wisdom would magically re-write history in two years. Many thought I was looking for the man on the grassy knoll. My response was that I would write a thesis on it. End of minute. I don't have to write the thesis. Quin Hillyer, of The American Spectator, has. I don't know whether to celebrate that my theory has been vindicated or mad that I didn't publish it and get compensated for the idea first. Regardless, Hillyer's "Saul Alinsky Takes the White House" (click here) is a must read to understand what Christian conservatives and those who believe in traditional family values and limited constitutional government will face starting January 20, 2009. It is something we need to be prepared for and ready to work against — work very hard against.

Here's an excerpt:

Watch what Michael Barone called the Obama "thugocracy" use the Justice Department to stifle dissent. Anybody who complains about vote fraud will be charged with "vote suppression." Anybody who complains about DoJ's actions will be charged with interfering with an investigation. Anybody who denies having interfered will be charged with perjury. Likewise, anybody who peacefully protests abortion clinics or the use of state-sponsored racial quotas will be charged with a civil rights violation. And the accused won't be able to look to the Supreme Court for help: Anthony Kennedy's "evolving standards" of justice will evolve to match the new zeitgeist, providing a 5-4 majority for the administration. Meanwhile, of course, Obama's other appointments will be filling up the rest of the judiciary at a rapid clip, with nobody able to stop them.

Other ways the Obama axis will tilt the playing field: "card check" legislation to eliminate secret ballots in unionizing and to force union victories in contract negotiations. Provision after provision giving favors to the trial bar so it can sue enemies into submission. Copious new regulations, especially environmental, to be used selectively to ensnare other conservative malcontents. Invasive IRS audits of conservative think tanks, other conservative 501 organizations, and PACs.

What Ohio officials did in rifling through so many of Joe Wurzelbacher's files will serve as ample precedent. (Just watch, by the way: Nobody ever will be effectively disciplined for the violation of Wurzelbacher's rights.)

And, only when the time is right and the ground (or air) has been well prepared, will come the grand-daddy of all fights, the re-enactment of the misnamed "Fairness Doctrine."

It's not just Joe the Plumber. Remember Barbara West, the Florida anchor who dared asked Joe Biden tough questions? Her station was blacklisted. Three newspapers who endorsed John McCain had their political reporters thrown off the Obama press plane (see The Washington Times, here). That's before he was elected! But surely there are bigger fish to fry — perhaps IRS and government intimidation of churches and pastors? By the way, what's with the 250,000 member security force Senator Obama promised? (See Blue Collar Muse, here.)

The coming socialist, one-party state only will be a crazy conspiracy theory if people fully understand what's at stake and decide to get engaged, stay vigilant, remain active and work hard. Work very hard — starting now.

Great News On School Choice: Virginia's First Charter Elementary School Approved . . . For Now

Congratulations Richmond School Board! You did the right thing and you have our thanks. Last night, after months of wrangling, controversy and approval — only to turn down a flawed contract contrived by the school administration — the board approved by a vote of 5-0 a new, and fair, contract for the Patrick Henry Initiative charter elementary school. The charter elementary school, the first one in Virginia, will emphasize art and science and will be open to all Richmond city elementary school-age students, who must apply for admittance.

Congratulations to Richmond school board member Keith West who carried this to fruition against the greatest of odds and through much travail — he's often outvoted 8-1 — even to the extent of risking no charter school when he killed the first contract because it was a set up for the PHI to fail and thus discredit school choice. But he came back with a new contract and worked with the other board members who conscientiously did the right thing. (West, an education reform and choice advocate, and The Family Foundation, are members of the education reform coalition School Choice Virginia.)

There is one catch to this great news, however, and a big one at that. Notice the vote. Only five of the nine school board members voted. One member was absent, but the other three, who are for the status quo (as if that's working), walked out. (See Richmond Times-Dispatch article here.) Of the five who voted in favor, only two are seeking re-election this November. The next school board could very well vote to cancel the contract — and don't underestimate the power of the teachers union and educrat establishment to protect their monopolistic turf. We'll cross that bridge when we get there.  

In the meantime, we hope the momentum gained from this approval will lead to two things: More charter schools in the commonwealth, now that that other education reformers in Virginia see it is possible. We also hope the General Assembly, in its next session, will update the code of Virginia to allow for an easier, less bureaucratic, less red-tape and less hoop-jumping application process for interested parties willing to create charter schools. These parents and organizations are willing to put themselves under public scrutiny and accountability — something sorely lacking in the teachers union and in many school district central offices — in order to improve educational choice opportunities, competition and excellent education for our children. While they're at it, maybe it can require some of that accountability among the public school educrat establishment.

Reworking A Bad Plan Can Make It Worse (Or, The Son Of 3202 Rises)

The Special Tax Session of the General Assembly resumes tomorrow and anything can happen. Some capitol insiders are predicting the session could end by the end of the day, with nothing done. That would be good. Some think the House could pass some watered down Senate tax increase, send it back to Senate Majority Leader Dick "The People Will Pay" Saslaw (D-35, Springfield) and his crowd down the hall, who will change it and take it to a conference committee, which would be dangerous enough. But others think that if anything gets out of the House, Senate Dems will pass it immediately and let Governor Tim Kaine amend it to include all the extra taxes his heart desires (we'd say that would be Christmas in July for the liberals, except many don't believe . . . oh, never mind) and send it back for an up or down vote. If that version passes, it would be a Kaine victory at the expense (literally) of the public; a taxpayer loss. If nothing happens, believe your bottom dollar (that may be all you have left right now) that the governor and the Dems will demonize conservatives as not wanting to address the transportation "crisis." 

They better be careful for what they ask. It may be anecdotal, but evidence is the public, across all lines, doesn't seem to have much of an appetite for tax increases when gas is at $4.00 a gallon and all the ripple effect cost increases it is causing. Senator Saslaw during the regular session was fond of saying that his gas tax increase would cost the equivalent of one Big Mac meal per year. Actually, it was closer to a Ruth Chris dinner, but regardless, most families don't even have a Big Mac to cut back right now.

Not only that, but his proposal in the winter was a 5-cent increase over five years. Now, I guess because he wants us to cut back on apple turnovers, too, his bill would increase the gas tax by six cents over six years (SB 6009). That's a 35-percent increase. It doesn't appear as if this will pass. The House Republican leadership let it come to the floor in a procedural move in committee to force House Dems to vote on recordin anticipation of next year's House elections. The money is on many House Dems getting cold feet on this one.

However (there's always a "however"), the House GOP doesn't want to get left out of the game. They want to be sure no one can claim they have no ideas themselves, so instead of no ideas they are proposing old and bad ideas. They want to "fix" the aspect of last year's transportation package (HB 3202) that the Virginia Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional. This new package, HB 6055, patroned by Delegate Phil Hamilton (R-93, Newport News) is more complex, but is also harmful to taxpayers and the economy. Its main feature is to give local governments in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia taxing authority in certain areas so as to spend it themselves for transportation, rather than the original, and unconstitutional, law that let unelected boards tax and spend. (To be fair, the original bill passed by the House in 2007 was to give local governments the authority; the governor amended it to give it to the unelected boards, and bipartisan majorities in the General Assembly concurred.)

While many legislators may make the political calculation that by "simply fixing" last year's plan (by voting for HB 6055) Virginians won't consider it a vote to raise taxes, they may be calculating wrong. People want the General Assembly to make hard decisions instead of asking for more money from families — again. Smart citizens know fixing a bad plan often makes it still worse. 

Among the various taxes in HB 6055 is one particularly heinous tax — a $.40 per $100 increase in the "grantor's tax" in Northern Virginia. This is a tax home sellers pay at closing. As home sales continue to plummet, and some of those sales are "short" (sold for less than what is owed on it), such a tax is reckless. 

Earlier this month, while detailing the state's current financial picture, Secretary of Finance Jody Wagner revealed a devastating downward trend in home sales to the House Appropriations Committee. At the time, several Republicans appropriately drilled Secretary Wagner regarding Governor Kaine's transportation proposal that included a grantor's tax. It would be peculiar for those same legislators to agree to one now, but this is the General Assembly, after all. Regardless of whether the tax is introduced by Democrats or Republicans, the governor, the Senate or the House, the effect on the housing industry is the same — it will ensure a housing recession.

HB 6055 also includes a $20 increase in the car inspection fee in Hampton Roads, an extra $100 fee on those who receive their first drivers license (in N.Va.), a hotel tax (N.Va.) and a rental car tax (in both areas), among others. Americans For Tax Reform mailed each legislator who signed its No Tax Pledge that a vote to pass the tax-increasing buck to localities is still a tax increase and violates the pledge.

Four years ago, then-Governor Mark Warner cited education, health and public safety to pass the largest tax hike in the Commonwealth's history. Apparently, in 2004, transportation was no longer the "crisis" Warner had said it was in 2002 when he tried unsuccessfully to pass regional sales tax hikes for transportation via referenda in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia. Now, Governor Kaine and some allies in the legislature have decided to dust off the transportation "crisis" to raise taxes. This action comes only a few months after they proposed raiding the Transportation Trust Fund for non-transportation expenditures.

Some of the same lawmakers who opposed a constitutional amendment restricting the Transportation Trust Fund to transportation-only spending now support a tax hike.  Even Governor Kaine, prior to his election, endorsed a "lock-box" to secure transportation funds from general fund spending and tax increases. Three years later, he has done nothing to support efforts to secure one. So what we're left with is a thinly veiled attempt to raise taxes on Virginia's families simply to raise money, not specifically for transportation. 

Besides that, it appears HB 6055 is more flexible than a Russian gymnast. Specific projects are to be carried out "in consultation with members of the General Assembly" — whatever that might mean. Sadly, the level of linguistic complexity required to raise some taxes in some areas, that affect only some people in order to fix some transportation needs, all while appearing as if no taxes are being raised, makes for a legislative nightmare.     

The bottom line is that for over a decade the General Assembly has bowed to the powerful education union and funded public education incorrectly, refused to reduce spending in pet projects, and counted on Virginians to pony up under the threat of disaster. If this mentality doesn't change now, in difficult economic times, what will it be like in good times? Believe me, it will be Bonnie and Clyde all over again, with a new crisis (health care or Medicare, perhaps?) and guess who they think is the bank?

The good news is that this can be stopped. Many legislators are being pressured by big-time lobbyists of big businesses who will benefit from government spending, from the teachers union which wants to ensure their portion of the pie isn't touched, and other special interest groups. But when enough concerned voters let their senators and delegates know enough is enough, it gives them the courage to resist the special interest pressures (click here to contact them). Instead of raising taxes, it is time for them to get some new ideas, such as comprehensive spending and budget reform.