CHARTER SCHOOL LOTTERIES: How can anyone still be opposed to charter schools after reading of the anguish, tears and heartbreak parents suffered last week when their children lost the lottery for admission to one of Rhode Island’s 10 free charter schools? With only 697 openings and 6,521 applications, thousands of losing parents saw only lost opportunity, lost hope and, perhaps, lost lives. One minority parent whose 4-year-old son was hoping for kindergarten at Highlander Charter School commented, “If he gets in here, it determines his whole future…” His name wasn't drawn. These good parents can’t afford to send their kids to private schools, nor can they afford the failure that comes with so many public schools. Liberals, unions and the majority of Democrats profess great concern for the “little people” whose life circumstances place them and their children in jeopardy, yet these same leftist groups refuse to support more charter schools. Could they lack empathy because they send their children to private schools or hire tutors?
SUPER-PAC DISCLOSURE: Supporters of a proposed state law claim that mandatory disclosure of contributions by groups and individuals to political action committees not controlled by candidates, super-PACs, will promote a “vibrant democracy” because everyone will know who is donating money, making it easier to gage the validity of the PAC’s message. Forced disclosure of the identity of contributors violates the Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of free speech! The First Amendment protects the right to engage in anonymous speech and association. It has been an important part of our national political dialogue as far back as the Federalist Papers. And will forced disclosure have the desired effect? Those who contribute small fortunes to super-PACs at the state level are already identified with their causes and the candidates they support; in a small state like Rhode Island, we all recognize them and their positions – disclosure isn’t necessary. How about the small, $100 contributors? At best, identifying them will result in an ocean of information most voters will likely disregard because of its magnitude. At worst, it will allow anyone with Internet access to spy on their neighbors’ political activities and beliefs. Many donors want to voice their concerns on political issues but prefer anonymity to avoid retaliation from employers or neighbors, or simply to keep their personal information off online databases. This proposed law is fraught with problems – some quite frightening. Let’s consider very carefully whether the limited benefit justifies the societal cost – especially the impact on freedom of speech. The more freedoms we give up in the quest to “improve our democracy,” the sooner we will have no democracy at all.
CICILLINE AND SOCIAL SECURITY: Congressman David Cicilline says he is working to “…push back against attempts to undermine Medicare and Social Security.” If that’s the case, why did he vote to continue the 30 percent reduction in payroll taxes that fund Social Security (cut from 6.5 percent of pay to 4.5 percent)? Without the full payroll tax, the once self-funded program will have to rely on the government’s general fund. Very dangerous! These funds can be denied at the whim of politicians, further endangering the long-term viability of Social Security. Most of our children and grandchildren have already given up on any hope of receiving a Social Security check when they reach retirement age. Cicilline, his congressional cohorts and President Obama will be remembered as the culprits who helped hasten the bankruptcy of Social Security through their terribly short-sighted cuts to Social Security funding – all done for perceived political advantage in an election year.
OIL PRICE SPECULATION: Free market opponents are hoping to pass legislation that would limit how much investors can speculate on future oil prices. The more investors risk on oil futures, the more attractive such investments become and the cost of oil rises – thus, increasing the value of the original investments. Yes, it contributes to increased prices at the gas pump – as does the volatile situation in the Middle East, the extra cold winter in Europe and many other factors. But is oil speculation any different than speculating on real estate? If investments in housing were to increase, such investments would become attractive to other investors and housing prices would increase – bringing a dead housing market back to life and increasing home values. Would anyone advocate we limit investments in the housing market simply because they would increase prices? Speculative investments fuel our economy; for its long-term health, we have to take the bad with the good. Keep the government out of the free market and we’ll all be better off.
LIMBAUGH MUST GO: Advertisers are pulling their money from far-right radio commentator Rush Limbaugh after his way over-the-top tirade against a woman college student who testified before Congress in favor of mandatory, insurance plan-provided birth control. Calling the young woman a “slut” and a “prostitute,” Limbaugh upset Democrats and Republicans alike. The narrow-minded, trashy, hurtful invective the pompous blowhard spews daily represents the beliefs of only a small slice of conservatives – the far-right knuckle draggers who remain mired in an antebellum mindset. He and his followers are a flaming embarrassment to responsible conservatives, especially to the majority who lean right on taxing and spending issues but are centrist or left-leaning on social issues. Limbaugh needs to just go away. Let’s hope this latest hullabaloo pushes him from the radio waves forever.