No post

I’m chauffeuring my daughter today and tomorrow. Next post will be Friday, May 24, 2013.

A friend is gone

I had a great idea for a post today. I had mentally composed it while in the shower this morning. Then my wife told me a friend, George Moreland, had died during the night from cancer.

George was a past Elder in our church. He and his wife lived in Platte County and made the drive to Cass County every Sunday. After a few years, the drive became burdensome and he and his wife resigned as Elders.

George, like me, was a Sprinter. He started with Sprint before it was Sprint as a lineman for United Telecom, later to become Sprint’s the local division. That division was later spun off as Embarq. He worked his way up through the technical ladder to become an engineer supervising the maintenance of many of Sprint’s Central Office switches and PBXs.

George lived, like me, through the yearly waves of layoffs  in Sprint during the first decade of this century and retired a year earlier than me. It seems for all too many that with retirement men seem to whither away. George, on the other hand, was a fisherman—a competitive fisherman and entered numerous fishing tournaments in the region. Until last year when something appeared on an X-Ray.

I wasn’t really close to George. We were friends but lived too far apart to have much contact outside of work or church. We talked and exchanged emails during the layoffs, wondering if we’d get picked for that cycle. I was once, and recalled in a few months. George, chose early retirement.

I miss him and his bushy mustache.

Blog note: I’m chauffeuring my daughter Wednesday and Thursday. Next post will be Friday, May 24th, 2013.

Sallie Mae’s time has come

One of the worse examples of government interference with education was the creation of the Sallie Mae program. Like all so many government programs, it was created with good intentions. But, also like so many (all?) government programs, it was fraught with unintended consequences.

The original version written in 1972 was to provide a means of low cost, government guaranteed, student loans. When I was in college in the late ’60s, my tuition was $195/quarter plus student fees of another $50. My wife and I attended Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, SIU. SIU was on the quarter basis at that time instead semester, Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer quarters. My room and board was $100/mth at a Christian dorm.

Few students at that time did not work while attending classes. SIU had a student work program paying a starting wage of $0.75/hour. Many students, my wife and I included after we were married in 1968, attended school full-time and worked 40 hours a week as well.

My wife and I also had small scholarships that reduced our tuition costs. Others without scholarships got student loans—commercial loans through their local bank or other financial institution. Education costs were low and affordable.

Until the FedGov got involved.

Sallie Mae eliminated the risk from student loans. One of the unintended consequences of Sallie Mae was the eliminating the need for students to self-finance their education. Another unintended consequence was that market forces no longer regulated tuition costs.

With a reduction of risk, commercial loan providers expanded their programs. Colleges, realizing that the market constraints from the commercial loan providers were gone, began to raise tuition. The result has been a steady increase of tuition of 7.5% per year!

Higher Education Bubble: College Tuition Doubled Over the Last 10 Years vs. +52% for Medical Care

The chart above illustrates graphically the “higher education bubble” by comparing the annual increases in the CPI for “College tuition and fees” (7.45% per year since 1978) to annual increases in the CPI for “medical care” (5.8% per year since 1978) to annual increases in the median price for new homes (4.3% per year) to the annual increases in the “CPI for all items” (3.8% per year). 

Mark Perry is a is a professor of economics and finance in the School of Management at the Flint campus of the University of Michigan. Perry holds two graduate degrees in economics (M.A. and Ph.D.).

In 2010, the Obama administration, through Sallie Mae, took over all student loans. Whatever market forces that still existed through commercial loan providers, were removed. Any constraint on colleges and universities to control costs also disappeared. Sallie Mae would rubber stamp student loan applications and the colleges could raise costs in a continuing loop.

Until it came time to pay the piper.

Dave Ramsey has a radio program playing on a local station every morning. As I sit here writing my daily blog post, I listen to the people on his show narrating their circumstances. People call in to his show reciting their woes and debt, debt often reaching six figures. More often the largest segment of this massive debt is student loans.

I sit here listening to people who have spent well in excess of $100,000 for a Bachelors degree in what? Social work…art history…counseling…a variety of professions that pay…$30K – $$50K per year. The costs to repay these loans push all too many into bankruptcy—except student loans from Sallie Mae can’t be removed via bankruptcy. Only death will excuse a student loan.

It’d be one thing to run up such massive debt if you would be entering a profession that paid well. But social work!? Counseling!?

Sallie Mae has become just another federal welfare scam. People are being taught that a degree is the path to the good life. Then, once they have that degree, reality wnrwea and they discover there is no market for counselors, social workers, art historians, and in many areas, teachers.

The job markets in many fields, including education, is over saturated. That leaves those recent graduates with…flipping burgers. It’s no wonder, now, that the libs are preaching that the minimum wage, which was sold as a “training” wage, must be raised to be a living wage. The problem with the liberal logic is that raising the minimum wage means fewer can be employed.

What Sallie Mae has done has been to pollute the educational process—raising the cost of education, increasing personal debt, and diluting the value of higher education. Indirectly, Sallie Mae has fed the increase of unemployment through that devaluation of education.

What should be done to restore value to education and reduce costs? A good start would be the elimination of the Department of Education. Barring that, disband Sallie Mae and return the student loan program back to commercial institutions and let them, again, make loans on a risk basis—no federal guarantees.

With the return of student loans to the market, market forces will once again be in affect for colleges and universities. When attendance drops due to excessive tuition costs, those colleges and universities will be forced to reduce tuition—or cease to exist.

With a return of reality, education will be value given for value received. If you can’t afford the tuition, there are alternatives available to meet education cost—including work. Yes, it may be a return to the ’60s—affordable tuition, market driven education, a return of working while attending classes, maybe, wonder of wonders, a return of conservative educators and an end of the failed socialist infestation that led us to this mess.

No Friday Follies

I will be busy today. No post. Next post should be Monday, May 20, 2013.

Parade of the scapegoats

The Obama administration had a parade, a parade of scapegoats. First in the IRS scandal, Obama announced that Acting IRS Director Steven Miller had resigned. The problem is that statement? Miller was the Acting Director.

According to the IRS website, he assumed the position of Acting Director in November, 2012, six months ago. He told his staff previously that his term was ending in June, 2013. In other words, he was leaving that position anyway. Obama used that previously scheduled departure to appear to be doing something while actually doing nothing.

Then they blamed the low-level employees at the Cincinnati IRS office. First, it was just a single employee who was processing the Tax Exempt applications. Then, it was more than one, it was several, a number who acted on their own.  What do those low-level IRS employees have to say? “sources went on say that these four IRS workers claim ‘they simply did what their bosses ordered.’ (FOX News)

FOX19 EXCLUSIVE: Four local IRS workers allegedly connected to scandal

Posted: May 15, 2013 9:50 PM CDT Updated: May 16, 2013 5:33 AM CDT By Ben Swann

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) –

FOX19 has exclusively learned that as many as four people may be the first Cincinnati Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees to face disciplinary action, and possibly even criminal charges, for allegedly targeting Tea Party and Liberty groups applying for non-profit status.

On Wednesday, the IRS announced that it had pinpointed two employees at the agency’s Cincinnati office for being ‘primarily’ responsible.

In addition, acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller resigned his position, revealed by President Obama on Wednesday.

“Secretary Lew took the first step by requesting and accepting the resignation of the acting commissioner of the IRS, because given the controversy surrounding this audit, it’s important to institute new leadership that can help restore confidence going forward,” said President Obama in a statement on Wednesday evening.

Prior to his resignation, Steven Miller called the two Cincinnati employees ‘rogue’ and ‘off the reservation,’ adding that they were ‘overly aggressive’ in handling the requests from those conservative groups over the past two years.

Miller also added that those two employees have already been ‘disciplined’ by the agency.

However, despite the claim of just two employees being involved, FOX19 has exclusively learned from two separate sources that there could be at least four Cincinnati employees involved.

Those four employees, whose names we have chosen to withhold until they have been officially confirmed, have each worked in the IRS Exempt Organizations Department.

This is the same department that has admitted publicly to sending letters to Tea Party and other conservative organizations.

In the DoJ investigation of “national security” leaks to the press, Att’y General Eric Holder said he had recused himself of that investigation. When asked about the AP wiretaps and subpoenas, his repeated mantra was, “I don’t know.” In Holder’s session before congress, he appeared to be proud of his ignorance of the investigation.

Eric Holder Says He’s ‘Not Sure’ How Many Times DOJ Sought Journalists’ Records

The Huffington Post  |  By

Posted: 05/15/2013 10:40 am EDT  |  Updated: 05/15/2013 12:26 pm EDT

…Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday said he was unsure how many times he’d signed off on subpoenas to seize reporter records.

“I’m not sure how many of those cases that I have actually signed off on,” Holder told NPR’s Carrie Johnson. “I take them very seriously. I know that I have refused to sign a few, pushed a few back for modifications.”

The comments from Holder are bound to stir up additional criticism of the Obama administration’s approach to First Amendment protections for reporters. The president and his staff are already under intense scrutiny over the Department of Justice’s decision to subpoena the phone records for more than 100 journalists at the Associated Press. That Holder could not recall how many times he has done something similar in the past will only fan those flames.

Holder revealed Tuesday that he had recused himself from an FBI investigation into the alleged leak of classified intelligence to the AP. The leak revealed a would-be suicide bomber who was also a CIA undercover agent. The department seized records for more than 20 phone lines from AP offices in Washington, New York and Hartford, Conn., from April 2012 and May 2012.

Holder, in his press conference, remained vague about the scope of the subpoenas. “The people who are involved in this investigation who I’ve known for a great many years and who I’ve worked with for a great many years followed all the appropriate Justice Department regulations and did things according to DOJ rules,” he said. “Based on the people that I know — I don’t know about the facts — but based on the people that I know, I think that subpoena was done in accordance with DOJ regs.”

And what about the subordinate who was in charge of the AP investigation? It’s a classified matter and he can’t talk about it. Nice quandary isn’t it? Holder doesn’t know and the one who does, isn’t allowed to talk.

I don’t know who Holder assigned the AP investigation, but if I were him, I’d get my resume in order and be careful not to turn my back on Holder, lest a knife slips through my ribs.

Convergence, Part II

I wrote yesterday about the three major scandals in Washington. I overlooked the 4th—HHS Secretary Sebelius extorting money from insurance carriers to fund Obamacare when Congress didn’t.

GOP probing Sebelius’s fundraising push: “Clear appearance of a conflict of interest”

posted at 2:01 pm on May 14, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

Lest we forget amidst the several other scandals currently blowing up in the Obama administration’s face (it is rather difficult to keep up), last Friday we learned that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has been hitting up health-care industry executives and groups, directly asking them to make donations to the non-profits that are working to enroll uninsured Americans and increase public awareness of ObamaCare’s benefits.

It is no secret that ObamaCare’s implementation is on the strugglebus, and Democrats see a lack of public awareness about the law as a pretty serious threat to their 2014 midterm prospects; hence why President Obama is putting more focus on the issue and Sebelius is trying to secure more — er — voluntary funding. The Washington Post described it as Sebelius approaching these execs “hat in hand,” but I would describe it more like approaching them with a gigantically threatening regulatory cudgel in hand. She is currently in charge of remaking the entire American health-care industry, remember? As Peter Suderman put it at Reason:

An “industry official who had knowledge of the calls but did not participate directly in them said there was a clear insinuation by the administration that the insurers should give financially to the nonprofits,” according to the Post. Something like this, perhaps? Hey, we’re short on money here. It would be nice if you could help with whatever you can, hint-hint, nudge-nudge.

Or maybe just: Hey, insurers. We just passed a law mandating that everyone in the country buy your product. So how about a million bucks? Or even a couple million? Over the weekend The New York Times reported that, according to an insurance industry executive, “some insurers had been asked for $1 million donations, and that ‘bigger companies have been asked for a lot more.’” That sounds rather like there was a direct solicitation.

The HHS Department maintains that they are not doing anything improper, but whether it is flat-out illegal or merely deeply unethical, it is definitely sketchy, and House Republicans got their probe on the matter going on Monday, via The Hill:

Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee, however, said the solicitations give a “clear appearance of a conflict of interest.” The committee questioned whether Sebelius is violating a federal law that says government employees may not raise money from entities they regulate.

“As the Secretary of HHS, ObamaCare gives you unprecedented power to regulate a significant share of the U.S. economy, from health plans to hospitals,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Sebelius.

Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee sent a separate letter to Sebelius, asking similar questions about her outreach to healthcare stakeholders on behalf of Enroll America.

“Currently, health insurers are seeking HHS approval to qualify for the health exchanges established by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act so that they may attempt to sell their services to the public when enrollment begins in a few months,” lawmakers wrote. “Your agency also has the power to review the insurance rates that providers wish to charge.”

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), has asked the GAO to investigate Sebelius’ fundraising activities. “It could be bigger than Iran-Contra,” he’s said. In an interview with Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post, Lamar and Kliff had this interchange.

Sarah Kliff: You’ve been one of the first Republican senators to raise concerns about the secretary’s fundraising for Obamacare. What would you like to see happen next?

Lamar Alexander: I’d like for her to stop. One issue is if she’s raising money from the people she regulates. But I’m more concerned about her using private funding and private organizations to do what Congress has refused to do. I and other members of congress are going to ask GAO to look into the extent she’s coordinating with Enroll America or other organizations.

The reason I used the analogy to Iran-Contra scandal is this administration’s persistent thumbing of its nose at Article 1 of the Constitution because that made it very clear that the purpose of creating Congress is to curb executive power.

SK: I wanted to follow up on the Iran-Contra analogy. That seems like an awfully strong historical example to pick in this situation.

LA: This is arguably an even bigger issue because, in Iran-Contra, you had $30 million that was spent by Oliver North through private organizations for a purpose congress refused to authorize, in support of the rebels. Here, you’re wanting to spend millions more in support of private organizations to do something that Congress has refused.

As more and more information on the activities of the Obama administration is exposed, the “I” word has appeared.

GOP Rep. ‘Not Willing’ to Take Obama Impeachment Off The Table

By  Andrew Johnson, May 15, 2013 10:10 AM

“I would say yes — I’m not willing to take it off to take it off the table,” representative Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah) said about the possibility of seeking the president’s impeachment in the Benghazi scandal. 

“Look, it’s not something I’m seeking, it’s not the endgame, it’s not what we’re playing for,” Chaffetz explained in an interview with CNN. “I was simply asked if that’s within the realm of possibilities.”

Earlier this week, Chaffetz told the Salt Lake Tribune that impeachment is “certainly a possibility,” which drew attention but added, “that’s not the goal.”

Boehner, finally getting his butt out of dead slow, asked,Who’s going to jail over this scandal?”

I would hazard an answer of, “No one, at this point.” Clearly, some should—Sebelius, Lerner, the management of the Cincinnati IRS office that processed the Tax Exempt applications, Acting Commissioner of Internal Revenue Steven T. Miller and others. Hilliary Clinton, too, should be charged with Criminal Neglect for her actions and inactions during and after the Benghazi attack.

My cynical side believes Hilliary and Sebelius will be defended to the end by Congressional democrats. After all, Hilliary is their favorite, at the moment, for Prez in 2016.

Convergence

There was a movie a couple of years ago called, The Perfect Storm. A number of weather events converged to create a monster storm in the Atlantic. It’s beginning to appear as if a Perfect Storm is building in Washington, DC.

There are three scandals coming to light in Washington—four, if you include the Kermit Barron Gosnell trial in Philadelphia. First is the Benghazi investigation. We now know that not only were the Marine guards reduced during Hilliary’s term as SecState, that warnings of the attack were received in advance, that security forces were stood down from the beginning of the attack and the WH and the State Department tried to blame a You Tube video that was uploaded months previously and that had very few viewings.

The second is the IRS’ attempted intimidation by audit of the tax-exempt status conservative and Jewish groups supporting Israel and of those similar groups applying for tax-exempt status. We now know this affront was started in the IRS HQ in Washington, not solely in the Cincinnati field office as initially claimed. In fact that Cincinnati office isn’t a field office at all. It is the prime office governing Tax-exempt applications and audits of those tax-exempt organizations. This scandal continues to grow as more evidence is being uncovered that shows the audits of conservative and Jewish groups was much wider than initially thought.

The third scandal that has just appeared is the DoJ’s “investigation” of reporters of the Associated Press. The DoJ wiretapped 20 lines in the AP’s Washington office and seized telephone records of hundreds of reporters. The DoJ has refused to explain their actions. So much for Obama’s administration for the 1st Amendment and freedom of the press.

The pressure on Obama is mounting and the stress is showing. He’s acting more and more erratic. In a fundraiser at Harvey Weinstein’s home with Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel, he blamed Rush Limbaugh as the reason why ‘Pubs won’t cooperate with him and give him a rubber stamp to do whatever he wants. It’s like a child having a hissy-fit when that child doesn’t get what he wants. It is reminiscent of Nixon wandering the halls of the White House during his last days, conversing with the ghosts of past presidents and crying in the arms of Henry Kissinger.

However, Nixon was, by heritage, a Quaker. Obama’s heritage is that of a socialist, a Marxist.  Nixon, under pressure, reverted to his heritage. He sought forgiveness and redemption, an inculcation of his Quaker heritage that lead to his resignation.

We don’t know what Obama will do under pressure, but we can assume he won’t resign like Nixon. No, I would expect Obama to be more like Hitler, hiding to the last in a bunker as events sweep toward him, lashing out against his foes to the end.

In the mean time, we live under that old Chinese curse: “to live in interesting times.” Personally, I’d rather it’d not be quite so interesting. However, that option was taken from us with Obama’s reelection.