Thursday, May 12, 2005

Ownership society

I just finished reading "The Enduring Revolution: How the Contract with America Continues to Shape the Nation" by Fox News reporter, Major Garrett. In it he makes a powerful case for how the Republican Congressional members' Contract With America--despite its apparent failure when 4 years later Newt Gingrich resigned as Speaker of the House--drastically altered the US political landscape, and in ways that have persisted to the present day. By way of illustrating this, he starts the book by describing John Kerry's appearance in Davenport, Iowa in January of 2004 to kick off his campaign for the Democratic nomination for President by outlining his plan to protect tax cuts for the middle class, one of the touchstones of the Contract With America.

The book offers a fascinating backstage look at Congressional politics and maneuvering, and a compelling catalogue of the transformation in government and society wrought by the "Contract", perhaps the most notable being Welfare reform.

Toward the end of the book he deals with an event that some have seen as the final corruption of the "Republican Revolution": the 2003 passage of the Medicare prescription drug bill. This bill was seen by many conservatives, then and now, as a betrayal of the principles of conservatism, an unnecessary entitlement that swelled an already grossly bloated Medicare budget. The machinations that went into getting this bill passed make for interesting reading, but my point in bringing it up here has to do with a discussion I had about it at the recent meeting of our group.

In the meeting I repeated something told to me by Jeff Grossman, former chairman of the Washington county Republican party of Oregon; namely that the prescription drug bill needed to be explained to the rank and file of the Republican party, many of whom were angry about it. He explained to me that within this entitlement were planted the seeds of the destruction of Medicare. The secret to this is the inclusion of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Garrett, in "The Enduring Revolution", explains that the HSAs were not part of the original Senate bill, and that when they were included, Democrats fought it, and finally pulled support for the bill when they couldn't get them removed. As Jeff Grossman explained to me, when people find over time that their best option, the one that gets them the most return for their money, is to start their own Health Savings Account, rather than the myriad of entitlement card plans that are the alternative, they will go with the HSAs in ever greater numbers, and eventually the entitlements will wither from lack of participation.

This theory was challenged in the discussion at the meetup with the assertion that there was "no evidence" that it would work, but in "The Enduring Revolution", Grover Norquist, interviewed concerning the Medicare bill, makes a convincing argument that the HSAs will have the same effect as 401Ks and mutual fund IRAs have had on American society. Those tax shielded investment devices, over the space of a couple of decades since their inception in the late 1970s, have welcomed tens of millions of middle and lower-middle class Americans into inclusion of what had once been disparagingly called the "investment class".

Perhaps the most persuasive argument for the potential success of this strategy, however, is the way Ted Kennedy fought the Medicare bill over the single issue of the HSAs. And this is also most likely why the Democratic party is so intractably opposed to President Bush's plan to partially privatize Social Security: they recognize that within this design is the likelihood of the eventual death of Social Security. This is a specter  of unspeakable horor to the Dems; it threatens not only their political control over the American populace, but repudiates their vision of a human utopia achieved through government and impugns the high point of their historical influence--the "New Deal". 

The dream of the "Ownership Society" proposed by the Republican Party, embodied in mechanisms such as HSAs, 401Ks, mutual fund IRAs, and privatization of Social Security is removing citizens from the patronage of government oblige and restoring to their own hands the determination of their health care and retirement.  It's why these issues are so hard fought, for it goes to the philosophical heart  of the two parties, the core beliefs that define each group.  Can human reality be redefined through the largesse of government, and the rigid control of the economy; or should government be limited and act only as a facilitator for us to determine our own destiny? I vote for the latter.

Sunday, May 08, 2005 meetup

I am the organizer for a group of readers of, a website that reprints conservative commentary online. We had our meetup for the month of May last evening, and had a guest speaker, Kevin Starrett, the director of Oregon Firearms Federation, a political action committee that lobies for gun owner's rights. Tom Cox, Libertarian cadidate for the Oregon Legislature last election also attended. Both Kevin and Tom spoke to us about political activist techniques, the workings of the legislature, and certain realities of state and national politics. They gave us some invaluable information, for which I am very grateful.

One item that Kevin spoke about I found particularly enlightening. Ever wonder why you never see two lawyers running against each other for a judge's position; why every time you vote for a judge it's just a rubber stamp for an incumbent's re-election? Kevin explained it. First, judges almost always retire 6 months from the end of their term. This requires the state governor to appoint his replacement. When that replacement runs at the end of the former judge's term, it's as an incumbent. No lawyer will run against that incumbent for fear that if he were to lose, he would some day have to face that judge in court. Get the picture? We never really get to vote for a judge. We're only endorsing one someone else has chosen; and we're almost always making that endorsement without the slightest knowledge of the kind of legal or political philosophy or temperment that judge brings to his or her court.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Cultural Competence

I attended the May meeting of the Executive Club last night and heard Oregon State Representative Linda Flores speak on Oregon Senate bill 50, dubbed the "Cultural Competency" bill because of its 3rd clause in section 1 that states: "...the commission shall establish standards for cultural competency and require an applicant for a teaching license to meet those standards." The $64,000 question, of course, is what in the world is cultural competency?

To answer that question let's first go back to see what spurred the creation of this bill. One year ago the Oregon Department of Education, Teacher Standards and Practices commission, Oregon University System, the Eugene School district LEAD Project, and the Oregon State Action for Education Leadership, with a $600,000 grant from the Wallace Foundation of New York, convened the Invitational Summit on Cultural Competency. The summit produced its definition of cultural competency in a 50+ page report, and its 5-year work plan for its infusion in Oregon's education system. According to this report "cultural competency" requires that individuals and organizations: A) Have a defined set of values and principles, demonstrated behaviors, attitudes, policies and structures that enable them to work effectively in a cross-cultural manner. B) Demonstrate the capacity to 1) value diversity, 2) engage in self-reflection, 3) facilitate effectively (manage) the dynamics of difference, 4) acquire and institutionalize cultural knowledge, 5) adapt to the diversity and cultural contexts of the students, families, and communities they serve, 6) support actions which foster equity of opportunity and services. C) Institutionalize, incorporate, evaluate, and advocate the above in all aspects of leadership, policy-making, administration, practice, and service delivery while systematically inolving staff, students, families, key stakeholders, and communities.

Upon reading this, it's obvious that the ideological impetus at work here is multiculturalism, a noxious theory that has already been thorougly inculcated in the public school curriculum and popular orthodox liberal thought. Embedded in the report, however, are political ideas far more toxic. On page 3 of the report it says, "...cultural competence entails actively challenging the status quo and advocating for equity and social justice." The term *social jusice* has become a shibboleth of the left, and I recommend to all that they read Thomas Sowell's "The Quest for Cosmic Justice" for a full explaination of how fatuous and empty the term really is. Despite its poverty of meaning, the term's affinity with leftist and socialist ideas is well known, and this is no exception. On page 8 more of the true intent of the writers is revealed in a list of what cultural competency means for teachers:

A culturally competent teacher advocates for social justice.

A culturally competent teacher understands the ways schools reproduce inequallity.

The Teacher Standards and Practices Commission will revise rules, after review, to achieve high cultural competency standards including possible REVOCATION OF LICENSURE for culturally incompetent behavior.

The Teacher Standards and Practices Commission will require cultural competence for license renewal.

A culturally competent teacher must apply cultural competencies and BELIEVE IT.
(emphasis added)

Multiculturalism is a poisonous doctrine that his been carefully infused in almost every aspect of not only American public education, but popular media as well. With this legislation, however, the true believers within the Oregon educational system have an opportunity to establish an ideological "purity" test with which they can purge their ranks from all of questionable faith. Not only will their definition of competence become the criteria for hiring new teachers, but they will be able to revisit the employment of teachers of long standing. All who do not share their vision of a radically egalitarian society of "social justice" and "equity" (read redistribution of wealth here), will be labeled "culturally incompetent" and shown the door.