Sunday, May 24, 2009
Sat May 23 2009 10:32:18 ET
In a sobering holiday interview with C-SPAN, President Obama boldly told Americans: "We are out of money."
C-SPAN host Steve Scully broke from a meek Washington press corps with probing questions for the new president.
SCULLY: You know the numbers, $1.7 trillion debt, a national deficit of $11 trillion. At what point do we run out of money?
OBAMA: Well, we are out of money now. We are operating in deep deficits, not caused by any decisions we've made on health care so far. This is a consequence of the crisis that we've seen and in fact our failure to make some good decisions on health care over the last several decades.
So we've got a short-term problem, which is we had to spend a lot of money to salvage our financial system, we had to deal with the auto companies, a huge recession which drains tax revenue at the same time it's putting more pressure on governments to provide unemployment insurance or make sure that food stamps are available for people who have been laid off.
So we have a short-term problem and we also have a long-term problem. The short-term problem is dwarfed by the long-term problem. And the long-term problem is Medicaid and Medicare. If we don't reduce long-term health care inflation substantially, we can't get control of the deficit.
So, one option is just to do nothing. We say, well, it's too expensive for us to make some short-term investments in health care. We can't afford it. We've got this big deficit. Let's just keep the health care system that we've got now.
Along that trajectory, we will see health care cost as an overall share of our federal spending grow and grow and grow and grow until essentially it consumes everything...
SCULLY: When you see GM though as “Government Motors,” you're reaction?
OBAMA: Well, you know – look we are trying to help an auto industry that is going through a combination of bad decision making over many years and an unprecedented crisis or at least a crisis we haven't seen since the 1930's. And you know the economy is going to bounce back and we want to get out of the business of helping auto companies as quickly as we can. I have got more enough to do without that. In the same way that I want to get out of the business of helping banks, but we have to make some strategic decisions about strategic industries...
SCULLY: States like California in desperate financial situation, will you be forced to bail out the states?
OBAMA: No. I think that what you're seeing in states is that anytime you got a severe recession like this, as I said before, their demands on services are higher. So, they are sending more money out. At the same time, they're bringing less tax revenue in. And that's a painful adjustment, what we're going end up seeing is lot of states making very difficult choices there...
SCULLY: William Howard Taft served on the court after his presidency, would you have any interest in being on the Supreme Court?
OBAMA: You know, I am not sure that I could get through Senate confirmation...
Friday, May 22, 2009
FAITH UNDER FIRE
Home: No place for Bible study
County demands pastor obtain $10,000 permit to host friends
Posted: May 22, 2009
5:13 pm Eastern
By Drew Zahn
© 2009 WorldNetDaily
A San Diego pastor and his wife claim they were interrogated by a county official and warned they will face escalating fines if they continue to hold Bible studies in their home.
The couple, whose names are being withheld until a demand letter can be filed on their behalf, told their attorney a county government employee knocked on their door on Good Friday, asking a litany of questions about their Tuesday night Bible studies, which are attended by approximately 15 people.
"Do you have a regular weekly meeting in your home? Do you sing? Do you say 'amen'?" the official reportedly asked. "Do you say, 'Praise the Lord'?"
The pastor's wife answered yes.
She says she was then told, however, that she must stop holding "religious assemblies" until she and her husband obtain a Major Use Permit from the county, a permit that often involves traffic and environmental studies, compliance with parking and sidewalk regulations and costs that top tens of thousands of dollars.
And if they fail to pay for the MUP, the county official reportedly warned, the couple will be charged escalating fines beginning at $100, then $200, $500, $1000, "and then it will get ugly."
Dean Broyles of the Western Center for Law & Policy, which has been retained to represent the couple, told WND the county's action not only violates religious land-use laws but also assaults both the First Amendment's freedom of assembly and freedom of religion.
"The First Amendment, in part, reads, 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,'" Broyles said. "And that's the key part: 'prohibiting the free exercise.' We believe this is a substantial government burden on the free exercise of religion."
He continued, "If one's home is one's castle, certainly you would the think the free exercise of religion, of all places, could occur in the home."
Broyles confirmed the county official followed through on his threat. The pastor and his wife received a written warning ordering the couple to "cease/stop religious assembly on parcel or obtain a major use permit."
"The Western Center for Law and Policy is troubled by this draconian move to suppress home Bible studies," said the law center in a statement. "If the current trends in our nation continue, churches may be forced underground. If that happens, believers will once again be forced to meet in homes. If homes are already closed by the government to assembly and worship, where then will Christians meet?"
On a personal note, Broyles added, "I've been leading Bible studies in my home for 13 years in San Diego County, and I personally believe that home fellowship Bible studies are the past and future of the church. … If you look at China, the church grew from home Bible studies. I'm deeply concerned that if in the U.S. we are not able to meet in our homes and freely practice our religion, then we may be worse off than China."
Broyles also explained to WND that oppressive governments, such as communist China or Nazi Germany, worked to repress home fellowships, labeling them the "underground church" or "subversive groups," legally compelling Christians to meet only in sanctioned, government-controlled "official" churches.
"Therein lies my concern," Broyles said. "If people can't practice their religious beliefs in the privacy of their own homes with a few of their friends, that's an egregious First Amendment violation."
WND contacted a spokeswoman for San Diego County, who acknowledged the description of the incident seemed "bizarre," but who was unable to locate the details of the account. She simply could not provide comment yet, she said, until she could become familiar with the case.
Broyles said the WCLP is nearly ready to file a demand letter with the county to release the pastor and his wife from the requirement to obtain the expensive permit. If the county refuses, Broyles said, the WCLP will consider a lawsuit in federal court.
Broyles also told WND the pastor and his wife are continuing to hold the Bible study in their home.
Monday, May 18, 2009
This article is from Lisa Snell's Blog:
Reason Foundation's New Weighted Student Formula Yearbook
April 30, 2009, 3:00pm
Much of our education funding is wasted on bureaucracy. The money never actually makes it into the classroom in the form of books, computers, supplies, or even salaries for better teachers. Weighted student formula changes that. Using weighted student formula’s decentralized system, education funds are attached to each student and the students can take that money directly to the public school of their choice.
At least 15 major school districts have moved to this system of backpack funding. Reason Foundation's new Weighted Student Formula Yearbook examines how the budgeting system is being implemented in each of these places and, based on the real-world data, offers a series of “best practices” that other districts and states can follow to improve the quality of their schools.
In places where parents have school choice and districts empower their principals and teachers we are seeing increased learning and better test scores. The results from districts using student-based funding are very promising. Prior to 2008, less than half of Hartford, Connecticut’s education money made it to the classroom. Now, over 70 percent makes it there. As a result, the district’s schools posted the largest gains, over three times the average increase, on the state’s Mastery Tests in 2007-08.
San Francisco Unified School District has outperformed the comparable large school districts on the California Standards Tests for seven straight years. A greater percentage of San Francisco Unified students graduate from high school than almost any other large urban public school system in the country.
Oakland has produced the largest four-year gain among large urban districts on California’s Academic Performance Index since implementing results-based budgeting in 2004.
In 2008, Baltimore City Schools faced a $76.9 million budget shortfall. But Superintendent Andres Alonso instituted weighted student formula. He identified $165 million in budget cuts at the central office to eliminate the deficit and redistributed approximately $88 million in central office funds to the schools. By the 2010 school year, Alonso will have cut 489 non-essential teaching jobs from the central office, redirecting 80 percent of the district’s operating budget to schools.
The experience with weighted student formula also shows that one of the most important factors in the success of schools is decentralized decision-making. Principals should have autonomy over their budgets and control the hiring of teachers for their schools. This flexibility allows principals to tailor their schools to best fit the needs of their students. Eliminating the top-down bureaucracy lets principals and teachers focus on teaching.