Teacher Strikes Harm Children, Ban Them

Teacher Strikes Harm Children, Ban Them

By Chris Freind CHRIS FREIND

Like clockwork, several things occur each September in Pennsylvania: Kids have a hard time getting out of bed, compasses required for math class are never used; and, most predictable, teachers will strike.

On that last point, the teachers’ union in Methacton School District in Montgomery County did not disappoint. Just as students and teachers were settling into a rhythm, the union called for a walkout. The result? More than 400 teachers are walking the picket line – potentially for weeks – while 5,000 students sit idle, leaving their parents frantically scrambling.

And it’s not just Methacton, as other strikes are occurring in Pennsylvania, with more surely to come. It’s time to end the recklessness of holding parents and students hostage – especially because there is no downside for teachers, as they will be fully paid for all 180 days of school, regardless of the outcome – and reform our state’s inefficient and expensive educational system.

To modify the legendary quote from Dean Wormer in “Animal House:” Arrogant, greedy and aloof is no way to go through life.

But that’s exactly how the teachers’ unions in Pennsylvania have behaved for decades.

With millions in forced dues – monies automatically deducted from teachers’ paychecks even if they don’t belong – the unions have constructed a statewide political empire, using their muscle to crush any opposition.

To their credit, they have been immensely successful in squeezing every last penny from broke school districts and overtaxed residents. In good economies and bad, they demand and receive large raises and benefits, including, in many cases, free or highly subsidized health care.

So it’s no surprise that Pennsylvania leads the nation in school strikes, with some years seeing more walkouts than all other states combined. As a result, its teachers are near the top in salaries and benefits. Inexcusably, the same cannot be said of student achievement, as SAT scores, literacy, graduation rates and students going on to college are perennially much lower.

And you can’t simply blame city schools for dismal student achievement. A quarter of Methacton’s 11th graders aren’t proficient in math, and almost one of five is deficient in reading. Yet over the last 15 years, the number of students in that district has dropped by 10 percent while spending has more than doubled, to almost $110 million per year. In other words, there’s more money to educate fewer students, but student achievement isn’t where it needs to be, and yet the teachers’ union authorizes a strike because it wants more, more, more. You don’t need an education to know there’s something seriously wrong with that picture.

And that has left many citizens scratching their heads.

Teachers are universally respected for the priceless role they play, but when they strike, it’s seen as a slap in the face – especially as the private sector continues to hemorrhage jobs, with many paying astronomical health-care costs.

Of course, to the unions, more money is the cure-all to improved student performance. Pay the teachers more and give them even better benefits, while increasing funding for public education, and all problems will be solved. But we’ve been doing that for decades, and education achievement hasn’t improved.

The global economy is here to stay, so our dismal academic performance has become dire. Our students are no longer competing solely against those in San Francisco and Seattle, but Stockholm, Singapore and Sydney. Yet compared to our top 30 global counterparts, the U.S. is, at best, in the middle of the pack and more often, much lower.

The solution is to instill accountability and rein in out-of-control unions. Here are two steps to accomplish that:

1) Inject competition by enacting school choice. When parents have a choice in their children’s education, schools that do well will attract more students and succeed, while those that continue with the status quo will lose students and fail. The free market system that has served us so well will have the same effect on our educational product. And for the first time in generations, our students would actually learn the skills necessary to succeed in life.

2) Outlaw school strikes. No public-sector union should have the right to strike, which is why our police and firemen are prohibited from doing so. It is beyond explanation that teachers, in whose hands we place our most valuable asset – our children – are not considered equally essential.

Strikes are disruptive to all parties. Parents endure incredible stress in their frantic search for child care, often risking job security by tending to their children (and blowing hard-earned vacation), and students’ disciplined approach to schoolwork is shattered, with no possibility of a seamless transition after a long strike.

And whom are we kidding? Sure, the law mandates a 180-day school year, but are students really learning anything sitting in a classroom over the Christmas break, or in late June, weeks after exams have been taken? In effect, students are held hostage so that teachers can justify their salaries and school districts don’t jeopardize their state subsidies.

Often overlooked is that teachers are also victimized by strikes. They become pariahs in their communities, and respect for their profession takes a hit. Let’s be crystal clear: Many teachers often don’t agree with union leaders’ decisions. But when that leadership calls for a strike vote – and refuses to use a secret ballot, as is almost always the case – there is virtually no chance of opposition. The risk is simply too high, and mob mentality rules the day.

At the minimum, there should be a law requiring secret ballot votes for school strikes, monitored by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor. That common-sense, practical solution would be overwhelmingly supported by the public – and teachers.

But if you outlaw strikes, basic fairness dictates that there should be a method to resolve an impasse. Perhaps the most viable alternative would be final best offer arbitration, the same system Major League Baseball uses with great success.

In regular arbitration, both sides throw out a number, with the arbiter often adding them together and dividing by two. That’s inefficient, because when one side makes a reasonable offer while the other side comes in with a pie-in-the-sky proposal, the result is lopsided in favor of the greedier party.

But with final best offer arbitration, the arbiter can’t compromise. He must take one of the two proposals in its entirety. That being the case, both sides innately understand the need to be reasonable in their one-and-only proposal, or risk getting blown completely out of the box. Cooler heads would prevail with final best offer arbitration, which is definitely in the taxpayers’ best interest.

Is final best offer arbitration ideal? No, since you are placing an unelected arbiter in a position of power, but in the real world, it’s the best we have to stop unaffordable contracts. It is a classic example of philosophical versus practical, and in this case, the practical side should prevail.

But there’s a huge irony. Because the union leadership has pushed the envelope for so long, the pendulum may be swinging back hard, to the point of potentially being unfair.

Outlawing school strikes (as they are in 37 states) can be enacted like any other law: Passed by the Legislature and affixed with the governor’s signature.

Arbitration, however, requires a constitutional amendment, a difficult process and one that would take at least four years. So the unions are facing the possibility of seeing their right to strike abolished, with no chance of arbitration as recourse. In effect, our teachers would be completely beholden to the school boards, and that is certainly not in anyone’s best interest, most of all our children’s.

But right or wrong, they made their bed, and now they may have to lie in it.

Aware that their backs are to the wall, the unions have spent considerable sums on candidates sympathetic to their “plight.” Unfortunately for them, they’ve suffered huge losses, and the head of the dragon is in danger of being decapitated, as Republicans hold sizable legislative majorities, and the upcoming governor’s race could easily swing to the GOP.

Hopefully, the do-nothing state Legislature will stop sleeping in class and strike while the iron’s hot, outlawing school strikes once and for all.

If our state lawmakers do that, they would deserve an A.

 

Teacher Strikes Harm Children, Ban Them

Lowman Henry Budget Glossary

Lowman Henry Budget Glossary

By Lowman S. Henry

Lawmakers returned to Sept. 11 to finish work on a state budget which was due at the end of June. Late budgets have become a hallmark of the Tom Wolf Administration as the governor habitually proposes spending that vastly exceeds available projected revenue.

The governor and legislators are in somewhat uncharted waters as they approved a spending plan by the budget deadline, but have yet to reach agreement on how to fund that spending. Governor Wolf, of course, is advocating for higher taxes and 14 compliant Republican senators joined with Democrats to grant his wish. However, the Senate plan to place yet another tax on the natural gas industry, raise a wide range of consumer taxes and borrow money from future revenue landed with a thud in the state House.

In the weeks since the Senate vote, conservative Republicans in the state House have been working on an alternative that would fund the budget without raising taxes and borrowing from future revenue sources. They say they have found enough dollars squirreled away in difference agency accounts to accomplish that goal.

The budget will be a top priority when the House returns to session. Since budget terms can be confusing follows is a glossary that will serve as your guide to what various terms tossed around in the budget debate actually mean:

State Constitution – A dusty old document used for decoration on state capitol coffee tables, but which is never actually referred to when making laws.

Budget Deadline – A relic of bygone times when the governor and the legislature actually fulfilled their duties by enacting a balanced state budget by the date specified in the state constitution.

Budget – A document that includes a plan for spending and for the revenue to pay for that spending. This term has been redefined as a spending plan that we’ll somehow figure out how to pay for down the road.

Structural Deficit – This refers to the difference between what the state actually has to spend and what the governor and many lawmakers want to spend. It is viewed as something to be funded with higher taxes, rather than being cut to fit available revenue.

Projected Revenue – The amount of money reasonably expected to be collected from existing taxes and tax rates. This number will fall far short of desired spending and therefore is often adjusted upward to meet that target.

Severance Tax – This is a proposed fourth layer of taxation on gas produced in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale region. Since the impact tax was labeled a fee, some lawmakers perpetrate the myth of an industry getting away tax free.

Tobacco Settlement Fund – An annual revenue source generated by proceeds of a lawsuit against big tobacco companies that now is seen as a way to borrow from the future to plug the current year’s budget deficit.

Borrowing from the State Treasury – A process whereby we borrow our own money and charge ourselves interest in an effort to make it look like the state is facing fiscal Armageddon.

Gambling Expansion – Refers to various plans to allow for on-line gaming, the placement of video gaming terminals in bars and restaurants and other expected new sources of gambling revenue. Projected funds from these non-existent sources are often included in the state budget.

Senate Republican Leadership – Senators who abandon their party’s principles upon acquiring fancy titles.

Veto-Proof Majority – Refers to having two-thirds of the seats in a chamber, of which a substantial number will side with the minority on important issues.

House Republicans – Lawmakers blamed for the budget impasse because they are opposed to raising taxes on working families, senior citizens and small businesses.

Reverse Appropriation – This is a new term referring to efforts to cut the approved spending plan to fit available projected revenue. It is not something ever likely to be used.

Taxpayers – The only group of people in Penn’s Woods who don’t have a high priced lobbyist working on their behalf in Harrisburg. They are also viewed as an endless source of revenue by spending interests.

And so, as you hear the governor and lawmakers debate how to fund the state budget, keep in mind that what terms mean in the public sector are often very different than what they mean to everyone else.

Mr. Henry is chairman and CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.

Lowman Henry Budget Glossary

Lowman Henry Budget Glossary

 

Shadow Budget Can Be Used To Bring Balance In Pa.

Shadow Budget Can Be Used To Bring Balance In Pa.

By Leo Knepper

At the end of June Pennsylvania’s 2017-2018 budget became law. It was unbalanced and there wasn’t a plan in place for how to pay for it. A significant part of the problem was that the Governor and legislature did nothing to reduce spending in 2016-2017 after it became clear that the revenues they expected were not going to materialize. The Governor and the majority of the General Assembly could have reduced spending in the new budget, but they didn’t. Instead Senate Republican leadership and Democrats in that chamber passed a tax increase and want to rely of borrowing to balance the budget.

The Governor, the media, and Senate Republican leaders have been insisting that the House Republicans were being negligent in not passing the tax hike. CAP and other organizations have insisted that there were other ways of balancing the budget. As we’ve noted it is possible to cut earmarks and overhead. We can add another option to that list as well: tapping the “Shadow Budget“.

Our friends at the Commonwealth Foundation have written extensively on this subject. Now, a group of lawmakers have taken the next step and introduced a proposal to tap into reserves from the Shadow Budget to make up for the revenue shortfall. Per the Commonwealth Foundation:

“…Pennsylvania holds nearly $73 billion in surplus fund balances, including $11 billion in the Treasury’s shared pool. This includes funds for many of the state’s shadow budget programs. The funding for these and other programs are deposited into three investment pools.”

The proposal offered by House members would transfer $1.2 billion in excess reserves, from Treasury’s shared pool. This is money that taxpayers, ratepayers, and/or fee payers have already sent to the Treasury Department. Furthermore, this isn’t money that has been allocated to a specific project. Instead, this is money that is being held well in excess of the expected expenses and future revenues. In some cases, these are structural surpluses that have been accumulating for years or decades outside of the General Fund and normal budgeting process.

Taking money from the Shadow Budget’s unexpended funds won’t affect a single state employee or budgeted expenditure. However, it will save taxpayers from yet another tax increase. The question is whether the majority of Republicans in the General Assembly and the Governor will side with taxpayers or tax-and-spend special interests.

 

Shadow Budget Can Be Used To Bring Balance In Pa.

 

Shadow Budget Can Be Used To Bring Balance In Pa.

DACA Defended But Still Called Unconstitutional

DACA Defended But Still Called Unconstitutional

By Chris Freind DACA Defended But Still Called Unconstitutional

There’s a good reason comprehensive immigration reform hasn’t seen the light of day for decades.

It’s not because of partisanship, since both Democrats and Republicans controlled the White House and Congress in that span, but something much more basic: A lack of common sense.

Strident hardliners on both sides want an all-or-nothing approach, from deporting 12 million illegals (impossible) to having totally open borders (also completely unfeasible). Their inability to compromise has killed any effort at meaningful reform.

Add to that the reluctance of party leaders to change the status quo, since they gain tremendous political benefit from nonaction. Special-interest groups, from big business to labor unions, line their pockets to keep things just the way they are, to the detriment of the country – and illegal immigrants.

But now that we finally had an opportunity to do something positive – keeping the successful Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program until a suitable replacement was passed by Congress – the Trump administration instead decided to end it entirely, phasing it out over six months. The result has been an uproar, since the lives of 800,000 productive young people – who had legal residency and legitimate employment – have been thrown into chaos.

Let’s look at the controversy surrounding the DACA “Dreamers.”

First, a quick background: DACA, instituted by the President Obama in 2012, deferred immigration action on children brought to America by their illegal immigrant parents. It did not grant legal status, but instead protected those who qualified from being deported. It also provided work permits for two years, which were renewable. Eligibility criteria included being under 16 upon entering the country; living continuously in the U.S. since 2007; being enrolled in high school or college (or already having a diploma or degree); have a GED certificate or be an honorably discharged U.S. military veteran; and have no felony criminal convictions.

We could do a lot worse than having productive Dreamers in our midst, living the American Dream.

Now to the issue:

1. The premise for rescinding DACA is that it’s unconstitutional. Trump administration officials stated that Obama made an end-run around Congress by instituting something that should’ve been under the purview of the legislative branch. That’s very likely true. That said, the president does, in fact, have broad discretionary powers when it comes to immigration. So, given how unpredictable judges can be in interpreting the law – with some actively legislating from the bench – the jury is still out on DACA’s constitutionality.

2. The “it’s not what you say, but how you say it” principle is still lost on Trump. While the White House has rolled out many good policies, most have been inexcusably bumbled due to incompetence and a lack of foresight, and the DACA decision was no different.

Rather than creating panic-inducing uncertainty – especially after months of promising “big heart” compassion and telling Dreamers they shouldn’t worry – the president should have worked quietly with Congress to formulate a replacement program before his announcement. That way, there would’ve already been a plan in place to ensure a smooth, less stressful transition. Doing it backwards was like discontinuing the space shuttle before having a replacement – a decision that still haunts America. After seven long months, there are still no grown-ups running the show at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

3. Give Obama credit for one thing: He led on the immigration issue when Congress would not. Maybe he overstepped his executive branch bounds, but he did what he thought was right. It certainly wasn’t the first time a president went into uncharted territory. And recent presidents, including Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, all instituted executive actions protecting segments of undocumented immigrants – though, to be fair, none were of the scope of DACA. Perhaps the lesson is if more elected officials did their jobs instead of doing nothing, then presidents would not feel the need to push the limits of their office.

4. Putting constitutional concerns aside, several questions come to mind: Why these people? Why now? And why not focus on the much more pressing immigration issues?

According to reports, 91 percent of Dreamers are employed, and most, if not all, have no criminal record. They are paying taxes and contributing to the economy, while remaining out of the shadowy and dangerous underworld – all desirable traits.

But are they taking jobs from Americans, as some claim? Maybe some, but for the most part, that is a fallacy. As much as we don’t want to hear it, fact is that far too many Americans – Millennials in particular – are highly unmotivated to seek work, let alone maintain a job. For some, anything not paying $125,000 for a 30-hour work week is beneath them. Instead, the overly coddled Entitlement Generation, which expects everything but works for nothing, is content to sip their lattes and eat avocado sandwiches – while posting social media sweet nothings every 30 seconds and binge-watching Netflix on their latest-model iPhones.

Sorry, but you can’t take a job away from someone who doesn’t want to work. The market seeks productive people with strong work ethics, and if legal Dreamers fill that bill, then good for them. What could be more capitalistic – indeed more American – than that?

4. Dreamers should be last on the immigration reform checklist, for two reasons: A) It was not their choice to enter America illegally, and B) The vast majority are productive, law-abiding people who have been in the United States longer than their home country, with many only speaking English. Where is the compassion in throwing them back into unknown lands that are often dangerous Central American hellholes?

The solution is two-fold: First, Trump must work with Congress to pass legislation that effectively continues the DACA program, despite the inevitable howls that will come from his hardcore base.

Second, while remembering that America grants permanent resident status to over one million legal immigrants per year – more than all other countries – we should enact the following:

• Build a border wall utilizing nonviolent prisoners and illegal immigrants, which would solve prison overcrowding and save billions. Funding could also be derived from drug seizures and diverted foreign aid to Mexico. The wall would also curtail drug traffickers, human smugglers and terrorists.

• Institute self-deportation policies by employing stringent law enforcement measures on businesses, and eliminate lavish public benefits, ending much of the free ride enjoyed by illegals.

• Mandate every business utilize the free E-Verify system. Any company in noncompliance should face stiff penalties and potential criminal prosecution.

• Illegal immigrants convicted of crimes should serve their time and be deported. And pass a law eliminating U.S. aid to any country refusing its citizens – and deport their citizens anyway.

• Document illegals by issuing long-term or lifetime work visas; permanently deny them citizenship and the right to vote; require them to pass a criminal background check; mandate they pay taxes; and levy fines (deducted directly from paychecks).

Done. Immigration crisis solved with common sense and compassion – leaving plenty of time for America to deport Kim Jong-un to another planet.

 

DACA Defended But Still Called Unconstitutional

 

Best Budget Choice Ignored In Pennsylvania

Best Budget Choice Ignored In Pennsylvania

By Leo Knepper

Often times the news media, Gov. Wolf, and the allies of Big Government in both parties present Pennsylvania’s budget choices as raising taxes or shutting down “vital services.” Two weeks ago, we presented several corporate welfare programs and earmarks that were driving up spending. This week we wanted to let you know about legislation that would save taxpayers $370 million by targeting government overhead.

Most people are unaware that overhead, known as General Government Operations in budget parlance, will cost taxpayers roughly $3.7 billion this year. In the private sector, businesses have focused on cutting overhead for years if not decades. Our state government has not been as vigilant in cutting costs as it would have you believe. Most of the cost savings programs that have been implemented merely nibble around the edges. New legislation introduced by Rep. Frank Ryan, a CAP member, would take a bigger bite out of the problem.

HB 1691 would cut the overhead budget line items by 10 percent across the board. Opponents of the measure would present this an unreasonable cut. However, a ten percent cut would still give the Executive Branch, Attorney General’s office, and legislature over $3.4 billion to spend on overhead for the year; that is hardly a paltry sum.

Before Gov. Wolf and the General Assembly try to raise taxes, they should first look at ways to reduce costs. Please, take a moment to let your Representative know that there are options other than higher taxes to get the Commonwealth’s fiscal house in order.

Mr. Knepper is executive director of Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania.

Best Budget Choice Ignored In Pennsylvania

Violence Sought By Left Looms

Violence Sought By Left Looms

By John Haenn

This new Civil War has been declared.

It began unrecognized for the beast that it is inside of the inner cities, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Baltimore, etc; Where murder rates surge. It’s a war being waged against an unsuspecting population, because of politically correct branding. This is a war between thuggery and civilized peoples. Takers and producers. Arsonists, marxists, terrorists, and liberty loving people. It began at a time of their choosing, and will end on our terms, and when we decide. We will have order. We will have justice. Government will be allowed to function, whether it’s headed by our guy or theirs, because that’s how America works. It’s something that will need to be strived for, probably over many years, and blood will be likely shed on both sides.

I am not a peace loving person. I think peace is largely a delusion, as history proves every day of the year, every year. If you do have peace, it’s temporary at best, and you have to work for it, and we haven’t worked. When the time comes to defend liberty, defend your family, and to ensure your basic needs, know this. Be ready for the day. Because the other side will not hesitate to kill you if you’re better off than them. Equally poor, equally oppressed and equally uneducated, or dead.

Those will be your choices. Create your own new choice. Join your local Tea Party. Join the resistance. Join with the freedom loving peoples who will stand on the right side of history and die on that sword, should the day come when blood is needed to water the tree of liberty.

Elected officials need to be effective partners of the people, not necessarily ‘leaders’ as the word is often used.

If ever inclined, and elected, I would be your partner. I would restore Constitutional Government back to a lawful, basic, and moral path. We’d work inside of the confines that are defined by the founders. They did the heavy lifting. We just need to carry it through and maintain the vision of this promised land.

I would surely hit the same kind of resistance that other Tea Party candidates have been stalled by. But as your partner, we’d work through it. We’d have many town halls; I would be so accessible; like family. I would call out by name those who oppose me in my efforts to push forth your will, to do what you’ve elected me to do. In this way, and in others, we can continue our work towards our common goals. Surely I would need your help, my constituents, to have any hope; our shared hope; of being effective to your satisfaction.

John Haenn is a resident of Delaware County and a member of the Delaware County Patriots.

 

First Amendment Protects Unpopular Speech

First Amendment Protects Unpopular Speech

By Chris Freind First Amendment Protects Unpopular Speech

Confederate statue removal. Protests. Government attempts to steamroll the First Amendment. Counter protests. Violence. Casting blame where it doesn’t belong. Political correctness reigning supreme.

Welcome to the debacle of Charlottesville, Va., where intolerance and double-standards were on full display, resulting in the most cherished American right – freedom of expression – being trampled upon to satisfy those who worship at the altar of political correctness.

Primer: The continued whitewashing of American history, in which all-things-Confederate are being dumped in the garbage, came to Charlottesville when officials decided to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee. That prompted a protest, which in turn led to counter-protests. Clashes ensued. A lone wolf schizophrenic then allegedly drove his car into the crowd, killing one and injuring dozens, prompting all hell to break loose when President Trump had the “gall” to condemn violence on all sides, instead of just those whom the politically correct disliked. It escalated to where elected officials stated that American citizens with differing viewpoints didn’t belong in Virginia, or even America.

Glad to see how much “tolerance” was exercised.

This situation has gone off the rails because too many are melding unrelated issues. Here’s an objective look:

1. Last month, the KKK organized a peaceful protest in Charlottesville. Yet the counter-protesters were a different story. They battled police by hurling objects and shooting pepper spray, and became so unlawful that police used tear gas, arresting 23. Anyone see that in the papers? Didn’t think so.

Were they condemned by the Charlottesville mayor and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe? Nope. In fact, the only condemnation was from groups criticizing the police for patrolling in riot gear (no wonder, given the “welcome” they received).

Why no condemnation? What’s worse: A peaceful protest by a group with repugnant views, or counter protesters, many also with bigoted views, inciting a riot and committing violence against police?

And what of the “emergency protest” that occurred Monday in Durham, N.C., where protesters stormed the grounds of the courthouse and obliterated a statue honoring fallen Confederate soldiers? Have their blatant crimes been prosecuted? Or even condemned? No.

The police literally stood by and watched as protesters “got a small taste of justice,” without even making an arrest. Can you believe that? How can some crimes be openly committed without any consequence, yet if it were another group desecrating a statue of a different kind, the repercussions would surely be swift and severe?

The law should be blind and universally applied. But that’s not happening. Instead, a mockery is being made of the rule of law, giving tacit approval to PC forces to continue their behavior. That selectivity must end.

2. Virginia officials did everything in their power to stop the protest before it began, despite organizers fulfilling all requirements. First, the Charlottesville mayor repeatedly criticized the groups that would be protesting, displaying a bias from the outset. Then the city denied the permit for holding the protest at Emancipation Park, the site of the statue, because counter-protesters would also be there. A federal judge overruled that decision, allowing the protest to proceed. Yet it never did, as Gov. McAuliffe declared a state of emergency, and the city declared an “unlawful assembly,” before the start time, canceling the protest and flagrantly ignoring the federal judge’s order. Mind you, this was considerably before a fringe character drove his car into the crowd.

The protesters had the right to be at Emancipation Park. If there wasn’t space for counter-protesters, then they, not the organizers, should have been moved to alternate locations. That would have been a win-win: Protecting the freedom of assembly, and mitigating violence. But that didn’t happen. Instead, elected officials, who are supposed to protect the rights of all Americans (not just those with whom they agree), blatantly disregarded the Constitution by canceling the rally outright. Ironically, when officials stifle free speech, it often leads to violence because citizens, feeling that their rights have been stripped away, take action. In no way is that condoning violence, but rights must apply to all.

3. James Alex Fields was arrested for plowing his car into counter-protesters. He reportedly harbored racist tendencies, was schizophrenic, and had no connection with protest organizers. If convicted, he should serve a lengthy prison sentence as a criminal. But that’s not what the feds want. Instead, they are labeling Fields a terrorist and want to charge him with domestic terrorism. That’s insane. He’s not a terrorist. He’s a nut job. Big difference. Labeling him a terrorist accomplishes two negative things: At first, it scares people, contributing to our all-encompassing culture of fear. But then it causes people to tune out, desensitizing them to the term “terrorist.” Like the boy who cried wolf, when a warning about true terrorists is issued, it will largely be ignored. To our peril.

4. President Trump was hammered by many, including some Republicans, for condemning violence on all sides. What was wrong with that? Truth is, the president’s critics want to give a free pass to those committing violence against white nationalists, the Klan, and police. Wrong. Violence is violence, no matter who commits it. Unfortunately, Mr. Trump, being indecisive yet again, bowed to PC pressure by effectively retracting his earlier statement, then focusing solely on white nationalists.

Instead, he should have held an off-the-cuff press conference, as only President Trump can, stating that everyone has a right to express themselves, no matter how repulsive their views. He should have then explained that it is not the job of the president to stick his nose where it doesn’t belong, issuing statements every time a crime or protest occurs, which unfortunately has become the expectation. Now, if a condemnation isn’t immediately produced, the PC trolls and some media outlets spin it as the president empathizing with the perpetrators. The problem of going down that road is obvious, but the president has yet to address it.

And are we all in second grade? Is it really necessary to officially “condemn” things that we all know are wrong? Racism and bigotry and violence are bad. Thanks. Like 99 percent of America didn’t already know that. Meaningless rhetoric solves nothing. Action and leadership does.

The role of elected officials is not to condemn individual groups, which, ironically, gives them credibility. The objective should be articulating how equality for all and special treatment for none mitigates resentment and becomes the rising tide that lifts all boats. But picking and choosing which organizations to condemn, rather than broadly criticizing their polarizing messages, denigrates politicians and sets a dangerous precedent.

5. Most disconcerting are the messages about who does, and does not, “belong” in America. Gov. McAuliffe stated that white nationalist protesters “need to leave America,” a sentiment echoed by many others.

That’s what it’s come to? Elected officials promoting a litmus test to decide who is “American,” based on a set of beliefs? It’s not without irony that many saying such things are the same ones who want to allow unvetted refugees to enter America.

If these leaders read the Constitution, they’d realize that America’s greatness stems from unfettered freedoms of speech, expression and assembly. You don’t stomp on those rights just because an organization espouses hate. You don’t flush 250 years of hard-fought gains down the toilet because small minorities on both sides hold positions that divide. And you don’t selectively enforce the law because you think you’ll score political points.

Instead, the high road should be taken by protecting the rights of everyone, allowing all voices to be heard. The United States became the freest nation on Earth not by shutting down dissent, but tolerating it. Americans aren’t dumb. They instinctively know that hearts and minds change not by usurping rights, but by putting faith in people to make the best decisions regarding their fellow man.

It’s time to stop being scared of fringe viewpoints and focus on the areas that can bring us together. Only then can we continue our path forward, with liberty and justice. For all.

 

First Amendment Protects Unpopular Speech

Bipartisanship Means Working Against Citizens

Bipartisanship Means Working Against Citizens

By, Lowman Henry

There is a lot of wailing and rending of garments these days over the hyper partisan atmosphere in both Harrisburg and in Washington, D.C.   Conventional wisdom holds that if Republicans and Democrats would just work together we could solve the problems confronting our state and nation.

But there is ample evidence that when Republicans and Democrats do work together the outcome is worse than no action at all.  The recent collusion between the parties in the Pennsylvania Senate to pass a revenue plan to fund the 2017-18 state budget is a prime example.

So, let’s pull back the curtain and take a look at how elected officials from both parties work together to preserve their own political careers at the expense of taxpayers.

In theory Republicans stand for smaller, less intrusive government and for fiscal responsibility.  Were that actually true the debate in Harrisburg over how to balance the budget would be focused on cost-savings and spending reductions.  Instead, leaders of both parties in the state Senate have focused solely on what taxes to increase and on an even more irresponsible course of action – borrowing from future revenues to cover current expenses.

The GOP holds 34 of 50 seats in the Pennsylvania Senate.  That is a veto-proof majority that again – in theory – should be able to pass a fiscally responsible state budget.  The sordid truth is that Harrisburg is not divided by political party, but rather is governed by an incumbent party dedicated first and foremost to political self-preservation putting up a united front against taxpayers and job creators.

Thus that 34-seat Republican majority was rendered irrelevant when leaders of both parties went behind closed doors to craft a revenue package.  What emerged was a toxic cocktail of tax hikes that would harm businesses such as gas drillers by implementing a severance tax; and add to the burden of homeowners by hiking taxes on gas and electric bills.  Oh, and that wasn’t enough to sate the appetites of the big spenders – they approved borrowing hundreds of millions from future tobacco settlement revenue meaning our children and grand-children will get to share in the pain.

When the final vote was held the revenue package passed 26-24.  How the Senate got to that number is the truly disgusting part of the story.  There is an old saying that you should never watch sausage or legislation being made.  But we will.  If all Democrats had voted for the revenue package it would only have taken ten Republicans to craft a majority.  But fourteen Republicans went astray.

Why?

The goal was to provide political cover to four Democrats in competitive districts.    It is all about incumbent protection.  Party leaders conspired to determine who would vote for and who would vote against the bill.  Those Republicans and Democrats voting for higher taxes and massive borrowing all represent “safe” seats because they are relatively immune to serious electoral competition.

A few Republican Senators who actually favored the bill, but who would face conservative primary challenges if they voted for higher taxes were given a “pass” to vote against the plan. Those Republicans representing more moderate districts and less likely to face a serious primary challenge voted for the tax plan.  Likewise Democrats deemed vulnerable to a tax vote were also given a “pass.”

So everyone wins – except We the Taxpayer.

And, of course, “leadership” of both parties all voted for the revenue package on the mistaken belief that they have to be “responsible” and provide revenue to fund a state government beset by out-of-control spending.   Real leadership and a truly responsible course of action would have been to craft a budget that spends within our means rather than go looking for every way possible to wring more tax dollars from Pennsylvania’s working families, senior citizens and small businesses.

The bottom line: the Senate’s revenue plan vote was nothing more than business-as-usual backroom Harrisburg politics of the type that cynically preserves incumbents at taxpayer expense.

Remember that the next time you hear someone crying out for “bi-partisan cooperation.”

Mr. Henry is chairman and CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal

Bipartisanship Means Working Against Citizens

 

Bipartisanship Means Working Against Citizens

 

Technology Robs Us Of Humanity

Technology Robs Us Of Humanity

 

By Chris Freind Technology Robs Us Of Humanity

This columnist certainly has his detractors.

Some disagree with the viewpoint. Others dissent when they “read” things that were not written, thereby drawing incorrect conclusions. Still others criticize the column for being “too negative.”

To the first point, the goal is to attempt to change hearts and minds through fact-based, common-sense arguments, but there will always be those opposed. C’est la vie. To the second, what can you say about people who only read half a column before unloading with both barrels, or prefer to inject their own words rather than read what is there? Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s not becoming. Lastly, stating facts objectively, no matter how hard they are to hear, isn’t negative. That’s the beauty of the truth; it isn’t positive or negative. It is what it is.

But it should be noted that on every one of over a thousand columns, this author, no matter how fiercely he criticized someone or something, ALWAYS offered a solution. From health care to immigration, race relations to advocating steroid use in professional sports, solutions have always been presented.

Until now.

Truth is, the biggest threat facing America, and all of humanity, seems to have no viable remedy. That’s not to say there aren’t solutions. There are, but they’ll never be employed.

And what is this gravest of threats? Terrorism? Nuclear war? Pandemic?

Nope.

It’s the skyrocketing addiction to technology at the expense of human empathy.

Nowhere was that more on display than the video showing teenagers laughing at a handicapped man drowning in a Florida pond, a video that the teenagers themselves shot. Jamel Dunn was begging for nearby people to help as he struggled to keep his head above water. But rather than flagging down assistance, calling 911, or, imagine this, helping the man, the boys found it much more entertaining to taunt the victim, shout obscenities, and joke about how he was going to drown. They even mocked him after he finally slipped beneath the surface, with one sneering, “Oh, he just died.”

Many comfort themselves by naively believing that this was just an isolated event, and that such occurrences, while tragic, are rare.

One problem: it’s not true. In fact, such behavior is becoming the norm at an exponential pace. And given that the generation that has been raised on technology from childbirth is coming of age, there is nothing that can stop this race toward human oblivion.

Consider:

1. Many are outraged that the teenagers won’t be charged with a serious crime, since, in Florida, rendering aid isn’t legally required. (Authorities finally found an obscure misdemeanor – failure to report a death – with which to charge them).

But whether or not they were charged isn’t the point. The infinitely more important question is how we’ve gone so far off track that our teenagers, indeed our children, didn’t just stand by and watch someone die without lifting a finger, but took pleasure in it. They had enough self-awareness to video a man’s death and laugh about it, but possessed none of the once-natural human inclination to help a person in need. This wasn’t a “survival of the fittest, it’s him or me” situation, but sadism taken to a whole new level, where remorse and moral conscience never entered their minds.

To the teenagers, the man’s demise was surely on par with video game “deaths” and TV “casualties.” And that is the crux of the issue. The unbreakable addiction to smartphones, video games, reality TV, and a skyrocketing amount of “content” on-demand – which society not just accepts but encourages – has led to a huge chuink of an entire generation becoming grossly warped, unable to tell the difference between true reality and virtual reality. To them, it’s one and the same: A person drowning right in front of them has the same “effect” on their conscience as a character dying in “Clash of Clans.” In other words, no effect at all.

In the world where human beings exist, there is, or at least used to be, a value called empathy. It’s when people in civilized societies attempt to understand what someone else is feeling, and be sensitive to their experiences – a form of altruism rooted in the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would have them treat you.

So if you were drowning, you would hope a passerby had empathy for your plight, and would do everything possible to help.

But our empathy is quickly waning, and with it, our humanity – the very essence of who and what we are – replaced by acute indifference.

2. Lack of empathy is increasingly commonplace. Sure, we know about the widely publicized stories: The Penn State student who needlessly died at a party because not a single person had the courage – or motivation – to call 911; the California girl who live-streamed herself driving and crashing, and who continued to stream, instead of calling 911 and rendering aid, while her 14-year-old sister lay dying next to her; the adult daughter who live-streamed her father being shot by police, rather than trying to help him, or, at the very least, say a last goodbye.

But they aren’t isolated cases. Similar situations are occurring every day that, while not headline-inducing, are equally troubling, where the desire to post dramatic or perverted video on social media (or to do nothing at all) supersedes any inclination to help someone in distress: A woman falls, and many just stand around and stare. A few may call 911, but often leave, failing to lend a hand since “it’s not my concern; I did my part;” a car accident occurs, but instead of checking to see if the occupants are OK, or helping them out if the car is about to catch fire (if they stop at all), many are far more concerned about getting it on video – from a safe vantage point while sipping a latte – rather than possibly saving a life. Even a mother trying to get a baby stroller up the stairs when the elevator is broken is often ignored.

Helping others used to be the norm. But now, people are celebrated for assisting others because of how rare that act has become.

3. In large part, person-to-person interaction has become “passé,” because we no longer know how to communicate. Ask a Millennial to call a pizza shop? Good luck. Most can’t, as they’re wholly incapable of engaging with anything other than their damn device. Walk into a coffee house and almost no one is talking, even those on dates. Instead, all eyes are downward, consumed with all-things-smartphone. Tell an employee to make an in-person presentation (aka talking to other human beings), with slides written in proper English, and without a computer to hide behind, and it’s sheer panic.

Make no mistake: Today’s technology has incredible uses that just a decade ago were unthinkable. But the negatives have come to significantly outweigh the advancements because we have become lazy, relying far more on technology than our brains – and each other. And it’s only getting worse, as millions of mothers and fathers instantly throw a device in front of their children as soon as they’re born, ostensibly because they don’t feel like parenting.

That’s not “educational” – it’s appalling.

If you don’t want to parent, then don’t have kids. But it’s extremely unfair to children when their parents aren’t willing to put the time in to teach and interact with them – which, by the way, are the most fundamental things parents should be doing. Sure, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse has its place, but it should never become a substitute for parenting. Yet that’s exactly what has happened.

Enter the hopelessness.

We can talk about breaking our children’s dependence on technology so that they can learn the paramount importance of empathy. But since parents are just as addicted, willfully allowing Netflix and Instagram to usurp parenting and non-tech family time, the race toward human depravity and an all-about-me society will only accelerate.

They say that sometimes life imitates art. If that’s true, then there’s no doubt what movie we are living.

“Terminator: Rise of the Machines.”

Anyone remember how that worked out for humanity?

 

 

Technology Robs Us Of Humanity

Jerry Oleksiak Ghost Teacher

Jerry Oleksiak Ghost Teacher — Last week, Governor Wolf once again put his ideology ahead of what is best for Pennsylvania when He nominated Jerry Oleksiak to be the new Labor Secretary. Mr. Oleksiak is the President of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), the largest teachers’ union in the Commonwealth. Making matters worse, Oleksiak also took part in one of the most tax-payer abusive practices available to union officials: he was a ghost teacher.

As a ghost teacher, Oleksiak worked full time for the PSEA, but he collected a paycheck, accumulated seniority, and pension benefits from the Upper Merion School District. Although the district was reimbursed for his salary and health benefits, Oleksiak and the PSEA still rely on the generosity of taxpayers to cover his lifetime pension benefits.

Mr. Oleksiak penned an editorial questioning the fitness of President Trump’s selection for Education Secretary because of her lack of experience in the classroom. Using experience as a measuring stick, how does Oleksiak stack up?

Has he ever dealt with the unemployment system as an employer? Has he ever had to appeal a workers’ compensation assessment? We can continue this line of inquiry for some time, and the answer would continue to show a dearth of experience on the part of Mr. Oleksiak.

In our conversations with business owners and employers, no one has ever complained to us that Pennsylvania wasn’t pro-organized labor enough. According to most recent studies, Pennsylvania ranks at the bottom of places to do business; our labor regulations are a significant reason why. A Labor Secretary with no experience in the private sector and a decade’s worth of experience advocating for policies hostile to the best interest of taxpayers would make the Commonwealth even less appealing to job creators.

Oleksiak’s nomination will go to the Senate where there is an opportunity to stop it. Republicans have a supermajority in the Senate, but so far they have not been willing to use it to benefit taxpayers. Here is a chance for Senators to remedy that mistake.

— By Leo Knepper

Mr. Knepper is executive director of Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania.

Jerry Oleksiak Ghost Teacher

 

Jerry Oleksiak Ghost Teacher