December 19, 2014
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The games have begun in the race for governor
My take on the news
Lonnie Barham

RAIMONDO’S CRAFTY PLAN ON “PEOPLE’S PLEDGE”: We all knew that State Treasurer Gina Raimondo, now running for governor, was a very smart woman and that she was able to get things done. We’re now learning that she is also a very smart and crafty politician.

After rejecting a proposal by the other declared Democrat, Mayor Angel Taveras of Providence, to reject super-PAC’s spending in support of either candidate, calling it a “charade,” Raimondo has suddenly taken a 180-degree turn and is now proposing just that. It’s easy to understand why she has changed her mind.

Raimondo knows she will never get the union vote after she pushed pension reform through the legislature. Having a “people’s pledge” in place would prevent the large and very wealthy union super-PACs from coming in and supporting Taveras. Of course, the pledge would also keep the super-PAC “American LeadHERship” that supports Raimondo from spending money supporting her campaign.

Raimondo has already collected millions of dollars from outside supporters in the business community and on Wall Street. Taveras is far behind her in filling his campaign coffers. And Raimondo has much more personal wealth to spend in her campaign than does Taveras.

The crafty politician in Raimondo now wants to keep outside voices out of the governor’s campaign. It’s a smart move since her campaign chest is so much richer than Taveras’s and she can afford to spend so much more on in-state advertising without those pesky super-PACs, especially unions, coming in and telling voters the whole story about either candidate.

IS FUNG PLAYING DIRTY POLITICS ALREADY? It looks like Republican gubernatorial candidate Allan Fung, currently mayor of Cranston, has come out of the blocks early with dirty political tricks. Kenneth Block’s supporters reported receiving phone calls from a “pollster” conducting a push poll that included statements that were outright lies about Block. Block is the only Republican running against Fung in the Republican primary and, by its own admission, Fung’s campaign conducted a poll on the dates Block supporters received the calls. Clearly, it was a Fung-hired pollster who pushed out the untruthful information about Block. The pollster told listeners that Block opposes the Second Amendment, wants to expand government and raise taxes, and that he worked for Governor Chafee - all clearly false assertions.

If Mayor Fung resorts to playing dirty this early in the campaign, it portends badly for how nasty the campaign will get. Let’s hope Block takes the high road and doesn’t stoop to the same kind of dirty political tricks. We’re disappointed in you, Allan!

OBAMA’S NEW NAME FOR CLASS WARFARE: Politicians are experts at coming up with new, reasonable sounding names for regressive policies that are generally bad for the country. And President Obama, with his sly tongue and his didactic, condescending way of interacting with the American people, is perhaps the expert among experts when it comes to renaming a failed effort in order to give it new life.

For five years Obama has preached to us about “income inequality” while proposing various ways to redistribute income taken from the wealthy and the upper middle class. The very term incited claims that Obama was promoting “class warfare” between those who worked hard, went to school, saved their money, invested wisely, and have achieved success in life, and those whose life circumstances - usually their life choices - have left them without the income security enjoyed by the “upper half.”

Obama has now decided to call his redistribution of income proposals an effort to “expand economic opportunities” for that portion of the population that would receive the redistributed income he proposes to take from the successful in our country.

Expanding economic opportunities is a great concept, so long as it is not approached in the usual government fashion as a zero-sum game, i.e., that only so much opportunity exists; and that to promote it among one class, government must take it from another. Expanding economic opportunities for everyone, to include the small business owners who create most of the good jobs in this country, will result in the expansion of economic opportunities for the poor and less fortunate without redistributing income from the successful.

So long as Obama couches his “expanding economic opportunities” proposals in terms that promote redistribution of income, they will still be looked at as an attempt to promote “class warfare” and will continue to sow division in our country instead of unity.

COMMON CORE TAKES BEATING FROM ITS OWN: Writing in Sunday’s Providence Journal, education professor emeritus Sandra Stotsky, a member of Common Core’s Validation Committee, blasted the proposed nationwide standards for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) as woefully inadequate to prepare high school students for college-level STEM courses. Both she and Stanford mathematics professor James Milgram, another member of the validation committee, refused to sign off on the very weak proposed math standards. According to Stotsky, Common Core has little standards beyond high school algebra II - only a few weak standards for trigonometry and no standards at all for calculus and pre-calculus. Statistics show that only 2 percent of college students who begin their undergraduate coursework at the pre-calculus level or lower will earn a bachelor’s degree in a STEM area.

What are standards unless they are high enough to ensure college success - yes, even in STEM? If the standards won’t prepare high school students for STEM, then we will remain just as far behind other countries as we have been. With respected professors who were primary builders of Common Core exposing its weak standards to the light of day, perhaps the Barrington parents who are asking the state to reconsider its position on Common Core are on the right track.

WHY DID STATE SENATE WAIT SO LONG? Rhode Island Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, joined by other senators - both Democrats and Republicans, last Tuesday announced a new initiative called “Rhode to Work” that is designed to increase the educational opportunities for future workers and improve the job skills of current and future employees. With our state’s highest in the nation (tied with Nevada) unemployment rate, Paiva Weed said “...it is important to take action now.”

No kidding! It is long overdue for the Senate and the House to take concrete actions to improve skills training and to improve the business environment in Rhode Island. Isn’t it the legislature’s job to take speedy actions to correct fixable problems in our state? After five long years of recession and its after-effects, why has it taken so long for our political leaders to get serious about solving the economic problems in our state?

Then on Thursday, the Rhode Island Foundation released a report that announced a 21-point program for jumpstarting Rhode Island’s economy. It’s a far better plan that the limited one announced by Paiva Weed. Of course, we should have expected it to be better since it comes from the private sector instead of from government.

OBAMA-APPOINTED PANEL FINDS NSA SPYING ILLEGAL: The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, a group appointed by President Obama to look into the legality and effectiveness of NSA collection of billions of Americans’ phone records, has completed its work. And, guess what? It has found the NSA actions to be illegal and ineffective. The Board’s statement included, “We have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation,” and “We are aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack.”

Surely, now that a panel appointed by Obama himself has determined the NSA program doesn’t do what it says it does, its continued existence will end and its gross violations of the Constitution and its total disregard for Americans’ privacy will be abandoned. Whether one believes secrets-leaker Edward Snowden is a traitor or a hero, his comment on the panel’s findings makes sense: “There is simply no justification for continuing an unconstitutional policy with a zero percent success rate.”

QUOTES OF THE WEEK: Responding to a comment made by Governor Chafee during his “State of the State” address that, “Unfortunately, the tea party and so-called conservatives have waged a war of their own on beneficial social programs,” State Representative Doreen Costa had this to say: “For over 70 years, the Democrats have controlled the state of Rhode Island. The state is a mess because of Democrats - not because of six of us (Republicans) sitting here.”


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