<title> 2011 August</title>

April 16, 2014

Back-to-School Blues (UPDATE)

My article as originally published in American Thinker:

I have two children who just started back at public school here in sunny California and I’ve already got the back-to-school blues.  It looks to be another year of adjusted schedules, fundraisers, buying supplies that I thought the school was supposed to provide, and watching teary-eyed teachers getting sent home with pink pieces of paper.  Also, it seems like I’m always hearing something to the effect that — it’s because of those budget cuts.  And I’ve been hearing it for years.

The problem is that I am having hard time finding these supposed cuts.  From what I’ve been able to discern (using the government’s numbers) here and here for starters, it looks like after adjusting for inflation, spending per student nationally has increased almost threefold over the last 40 years (remember: per student spending accounts for population increases).  Shouldn’t we be getting three times the services (heck, I’d settle for 1½ times) instead of the continued reduction of services?  And after reading this Cato piece about the costs being even higher than advertised, I’m not sure what to think.  Am I reading all this stuff correctly?

And this gives a little perspective to some of what we’ve been told in the past:

After adjustment for inflation, current expenditures per student in fall enrollment at public schools rose during the 1980s, remained stable during the first part of the 1990s, and rose again after 1992-93. There was an increase of 37 percent from 1980-81 to 1990-91; a change of less than 1 percent from 1990-91 to 1994-95 (which resulted from small decreases at the beginning of this period, followed by small increases after 1992-93); and an increase of 32 percent from 1994-95 to 2007-08.

Wait a minute!  I thought we were told that Reagan and Bush 41/43 instituted massive cuts in education!  Keep in mind that the 37% and 32% increases quoted were after inflation!  In real dollars, both increases were around 100%.

Back in Cali you’ll find that recent per student spending peaked for the 2010/11 year at $11,154 and for 2011/12 drops to $10,703, which is slightly less than the 2009/10 year at $10,921.  Hardly draconian, given the increases over the years.  Considering the current economic environment in the US, I doubt the average household would have any problem “surviving” that kind of cut.

The California pie chart shows that 61.5% of the spending goes to “classroom instruction.”  I think my daughter’s classroom has 32 kids in it this year.  So that’s $342,496 total or $210,635 for “classroom instruction” — in just one classroom.  Shhhh — don’t tell the teachers.

Who would tolerate this in the real (think free-market) world?  If you hired a contractor 40 years ago to build a semi-custom home, in an average neighborhood, using average finishes, wouldn’t you think that — again, using inflation-adjusted dollars — you could build the same home today for the same price?  What if your contractor told you that to build this same house would cost nearly three times more than it did 40 years ago (yes, inflation-adjusted) but that the roof would leak and you would have to paint it yourself?  You would show him the door (or just throw him out the window).  If you’re able to understand 3rd-grade math, you would rightfully expect either three homes for that price or a much, much larger custom home.

We all need to raise our hands and start asking questions instead of just blindly accepting the narrative — it’s because of those budget cuts.  Logic seems to dictate that the money isn’t going to the places that it should.  Don’t you think that it may be time for a bunch of people to get expelled over this?

(UPDATE)

I’m still hearing a lot of local talk about “massive” school budget cuts here in California so I’m posting Governor Brown’s proposed budget summary for 2012-13.  So where are these massive cuts?  Were the small decreases for the 2011-12 school years really “massive”?

The Governor claims that this budget is dependant upon passage of his tax initiative which he says would add 6.9 billion to education spending.  If his tax increase does pass, look for a net revenue decrease as more and more businesses head for the exits in this already over-taxed state.  Threats of funding cuts in education and public safety are a typical scare tactic.  I have a feeling that without the job-killing tax increase, the money will somehow be “found” at the last moment.

The Governor claims that school spending reached an all time high in 2007-08.  The per pupil spending for those years was $9,706.

Even if we brought per pupil spending down to 2007-8 levels I hardly think it would be a disaster.  Again, adjusted for inflation, schools get nearly three times what they did forty years ago on a per pupil basis.   We’ve all had to tighten our belts over the last few years.  At least those of us in the private sector have had to.

K‑12 School Spending and Attendance

Per‑Pupil Spending

Total per‑pupil expenditures from all sources are projected to be $10,610 in 2011‑12 and

$11,246 in 2012‑13, including funds provided for prior year settle‑up obligations. K‑12

Proposition 98 per‑pupil expenditures in the Budget are $7,815 in 2012‑13, up significantly

from the $7,096 per‑pupil provided in 2011‑12. (See Figure K12‑01). Figure K12‑02

displays the revenue sources for schools.   Link  

 

Chemo-Economics

My article as originally published in American Thinker:

This nation is incredibly sick in case you were unaware.  The “disease” is capitalism but don’t you fret, the economic “doctors” at the helm of our nation have a cure for this “terrible” condition – it’s called chemo-economics.

Like chemo-therapy, chemo-economics uses poison (massive doses of spending, powerful demagoguery, flooding debt monetization, etc.) in an attempt to keep the “disease” from growing and cure it before the “patient” is killed in the process.  Obviously something that should only be attempted by a professional.

The United States is currently 2 ½ years into its chemo-economic therapy and its effects are really starting to wear it down in a big way.  My fear is that this “patient” has been so severely weakened by this treatment that it won’t be able to survive much more of it.

I’m starting to wonder if we should get a second opinion.  I’m really worried that there may have been a misdiagnosis and that this “disease” is in fact a vital organ.

Obama’s Parallel Universe

My article as originally published in American Thinker:

It’s all finally starting to make sense, we’re not all crazy.  Our President obviously comes from a parallel universe and somehow worked his way to us through one of those wormholes we hear about in sci-fi flicks.  The only problem is that it is now apparent that it’s not a universe like ours, but rather an anti-universe.   Paul Krugman (obviously one of the “sleepers” along with many others such as Carville) let the cat out of the bag on this one by calling for an alien attack in order to “stimulate” the economy.  I hope “they” didn’t get the message!

Merriam-Webster  defines antiparticle as :

a subatomic particle identical to another subatomic particle in mass but opposite to it in electric and magnetic properties (as sign of charge) that when brought together with its counterpart produces mutual annihilation; especially : a subatomic particle not found in ordinary matter.

In theory an anti-universe is made entirely of these anti-particles or anti-matter.  It’s one thing to play with these particles in the laboratory or to have our “elites” carelessly tossing these things around within the well insulated walls of their ivory towers, but attempting to bring them out into our world is a recipe for disaster.

Here are just a few examples: Their world: stimulus spending grows the economy.  Our world:  stimulus spending grows the government and the debt.  Their world: food stamps and unemployment benefits create jobs.  Our world: food stamps and unemployment benefits destroy jobs and create dependency.  Their world: We created 2 million jobs.  Our world: They destroyed 2 million jobs.  Their world: Terrorist = opposition to unrestricted government growth.  Our world: Patriot = opposition to unrestricted government growth.  I could go on but I think you get the point.

Obama has said that he will unveil his new “jobs” plan in September to jump-start the economy.  This “mutual annihilation” part of anti-particle theory is really starting to make me nervous.

By the way – do you know what the costliest substance in our world is?  If you guessed anti-matter you would be correct.

Chevy’s Low Voltage Troubles

My article as originally published in American Thinker:

“Only 125 Volts” is the first thing that caught my eye in an article I stumbled upon from the National Legal and Policy Center.  As I come from an electrical background, I would agree that 125 Volts is nothing to get too excited about, but this article wasn’t teaching you how to replace a circuit breaker, instead it was discussing the total brown-out of Chevy Volt sales in the month of July.  ”Only 125 Volts were sold during the month of July.”   Somehow I doubt this comes as a major shock to anyone with the slightest amount of good business sense.

While 125 Volts is fairly low as far as voltages go, it most certainly will get your attention if you accidently come in contact with it (please just trust me on this).  On the other hand, it’s going to take much higher Volt-age sales numbers to attract investors’ attention and give them confidence in GM’s “business” decisions.

In order for power transmission to work over great distances, power companies must step-up the Voltage to tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of Volts.  Using a lower Voltage produces too many losses and is simply not sustainable over long distances (speaking of Voltage drop, 1 Chevy Volt can only travel about 40 miles).   Similarly, if GM wants to finally become sustainable it will have to reduce its losses and step-up the Voltage.  In this case it will need to sell many, many thousands of Volts.

In the real world (not in la la land) the way a company does this is by offering a product or service that the public actually wants, and is willing to buy, in a sufficient enough quantity as to make the company a profit (or at least break even).  Following a President’s social agenda instead of listening to the market is very bad business and means that the program will need to be subsidized by the sales of other profitable products or worse.

Electrical safety is no laughing matter and if the rules aren’t properly followed someone is going to get hurt or something will get broken. The same can be said for the rules of economics, which is fine if a company is forced to live (or die) by its decisions, but sadly the last time GM broke those rules it was the US taxpayer who got fried.  Are taxpayers being set-up for another shock at some point in the future?

Our Historic Compromise

 

My article as originally published in American Thinker:

After months and months of tough negotiations, my wife and I have finally reached a compromise to deal with our spending and debt problems.

For years we’ve been living almost within our means.  I say “almost” because while we could have lived comfortably off the $100K we make each year, my wife always put an extra $1,000-$2,000 more than we were taking in on the credit card.  That’s what I get for letting her be in charge of our finances.

Things changed in 2008.  Our salaries remained the same, but my wife decided that the way to prosperity was for us to go on a spending binge.  Whatever we wanted to buy, we did — vacations, expensive dinners out, the best clothing, etc.  We were finally living the life of our dreams.

Then the bills came due — over a $100K of credit card debt in one year alone.  While I was worried, I decided to ignore it, and in 2009, we did the same thing.  By 2010, I had become extremely concerned for our future, and by November 2010, I had wrestled partial control of our finances from the wife.

We started 2011 with the tough negotiations needed to reduce our spending and gain control of our debt.  We still earn $100K a year, but for the past three years, we’ve been spending $200K a year.  Our debt is piling up, and I’m afraid we’re headed for bankruptcy.  We needed to find a compromise.

My wife wants to spend $300K in 2011, but I told her that this is clearly not an option.  I countered by suggesting that we hold spending to the $200K levels, but she had a fit and made threats (yes, she played that card!).  She said we would be unable to pay the credit card interest or feed the children.

Yet after months of painful negotiations, I think we’ve finally come up with a compromise we can both live with.  We will be cutting spending by $10,000 over the next ten years, which clearly puts us on the path to getting our house back in order.  Luckily, the credit card company has agreed to raise our limit.

I wanted a better deal, but this is the best I could get in our divided house.  All the same, I feel so much better now.  Wouldn’t you?

— Satire —