Education

A Radical Fix for Washington: Have Congress Do Its Job
If Congress performed more of the tasks assigned to it by the Constitution, it also would feel compelled to act more responsibly

ILLUSTRATION: ALEX NABAUM
By Gerald F. Seib
May 17, 2018 11:29 a.m. ET

Here’s a simple yet radical thought on how to fix much of what ails Washington: Have Congress do its job.

When attempting to explain the myriad problems that plague the nation’s capital, people talk of partisanship, polarization and a White House in perpetual chaos—and there’s certainly plenty of all that to go around. Yet every one of those problems is exacerbated by the way Congress has abdicated or shirked its duties.

Maybe, just maybe, if Congress accepted and performed more of the tasks assigned to it by the Constitution, it also would feel compelled to act more responsibly—to find the compromise, to overcome the partisanship, to reach the durable solution. Like the young adult who leaves home and suddenly has to live with the consequences of his or her own actions, it would have to start doing the mature thing.

Instead, we often are living with the opposite. For years, Congress has punted its Constitutional responsibilities down Pennsylvania Avenue to the president. It’s often unable to perform its most basic function, which is to pass spending bills, instead resorting to giant catchall spending measures that nobody has read and that leave the executive branch to fill in many policy blanks. In a similar illustration of its problems, a House crippled by intramural feuding on Friday failed to pass a farm bill, another piece of core legislation.

On problem after problem, in other words, Congress has said in effect, “We’re not responsible”—which only liberates it to act irresponsibly. Continue reading

 

Photo courtesy of Amanda Croy

Colorado’s Gubernatorial Race 2018: The Hot Topics

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Talking Points

The topics that will dominate candidates’ messaging throughout the campaign season.

Growth

It is the best of times…or is it the worst of times? That depends a lot on how you feel about Colorado’s growth. “Normally, the economy would be the highest issue for most voters,” Paul Teske, a dean at CU Denver, says. “There will be a lot of talk about sustaining the boom.” But, adds DU’s Seth Masket: “There are a lot of different areas of the state that are adversely affected by this growth.” Transportation has become a perennial funding battle at the Capitol and could benefit from strong gubernatorial influence (read: political pressure) to make Republicans and Democrats find bipartisan ways forward. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in Colorado is three percent (it was 8.9 percent at the end of 2010), which on its face is great news, but that near-full employment causes woes for companies desperate to fill jobs. Wages—particularly in the metro area—haven’t kept up with cost-of-living expenses, which means that although people are finding work, they may not be able to pay bills. And the biggest expense for many voters is rising housing costs. Mix that all together, and the moment is prime for a gubernatorial candidate to stand out by creating a unique vision for Colorado’s future.

Education

This may seem like a topic that matters most to people who are raising families, but this year, candidates will compel everyone to think about Colorado’s education system (funding here ranks in the bottom third of all states in the country). Which makes sense: Property owners help pay for schools, employers benefit from a well-prepared workforce, and we all want the best for society’s youngsters, right? But how we ensure we have a strong education system is quite a bit more complicated. Magellan Strategies’ David Flaherty says Republican candidates should be talking about education right now and through November. “It’s the one issue we completely give to the Democrats,” Flaherty says. “It’s unfortunate because it’s one of the top two issues for unaffiliated voters.”

Tabor

Conversations about addressing growing pains or giving more money to teachers inevitably evolve into talks about what to do about Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), which limits government spending to match population growth and inflation increases.

Under TABOR, which passed in 1992, leftover revenue is returned to the taxpayers. Proponents herald the limits on government spending; detractors warn that TABOR isn’t robust enough to respond to real-time needs, like shifting populations in schools due to high housing costs.

But Coloradans tend to like the control TABOR gives them: A January 2018 report from the American Politics Research Lab at CU Boulder found that “support among Coloradans outpaces opposition,” with 45 percent of respondents supporting TABOR.

That number has fallen since 2016, and the study notes that more than a quarter of respondents had “uncertainty about a position.” In short, there’s room for candidates to make TABOR the issue of the campaign.

Republican candidates are likely to support working within TABOR’s constraints. Democrats will probably talk more about reform or repeal.

Guns

 

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From Parkland to Waffle House

Society ‘dropped the ball’ on Nikolas Cruz and Travis Reinking. A hero picked it up.

After the shooting in Nashville, April 22.
After the shooting in Nashville, April 22. PHOTO: MARK HUMPHREY/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The death toll at a Nashville Waffle House stopped at four because James Shaw pushed back.

Mr. Shaw ran toward shooter Travis Reinking out of an instinct for self-protection. “I acted in a blink of a second,” he says. “It was like: ‘Do it now. Go now.’ I just took off.”

He says he’s no hero, but men have been awarded the Medal of Honor for acting on the same blink-of-an-eye instinct. Mr. Shaw is not only a hero, but an object lesson in what America once took for granted but no longer does.

Over a long time, going back decades, the opposite instinct became the norm in the United States when confronted with threats.

The threats could be large, like school shootings and terrorism, or they could be small, daily assaults on the most basic civilized orderings of everyday life. Such as 14-year-old girls using four-letter words.

We used to push back instinctively. Then, we routinely began to step aside.

The new instinct—don’t do it—happened for all sorts of reasons: You’ll get in trouble with the lawyers. Somebody else is supposed to take care of these things. There must be a better way to understand this problem. Eventually, the simple answer of a James Shaw—“Do it now!”—just died.

 

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Last fall, Oprah Winfrey spoke with 14 Michigan voters, seven of whom voted for Donald Trump. Winfrey sat down with the voters again to get their thoughts on Trump’s first year in office Continue reading

What Can’t Be Debated on Campus

Pilloried for her politically incorrect views, University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax asks if it’s still possible to have substantive arguments about divisive issues.

What Can’t Be Debated on Campus
ILLUSTRATION: JOHN CUNEO

There is a lot of abstract talk these days on American college campuses about free speech and the values of free inquiry, with lip service paid to expansive notions of free expression and the marketplace of ideas. What I’ve learned through my recent experience of writing a controversial op-ed is that most of this talk is not worth much. It is only when people are confronted with speech they don’t like that we see whether these abstractions are real to them.

The op-ed, which I co-authored with Larry Alexander of the University of San Diego Law School, appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Aug. 9 under the headline, “Paying the Price for the Breakdown of the Country’s Bourgeois Culture.” It began by listing some of the ills afflicting American society:

Too few Americans are qualified for the jobs available. Male working-age labor-force participation is at Depression-era lows. Opioid abuse is widespread. Homicidal violence plagues inner cities. Almost half of all children are born out of wedlock, and even more are raised by single mothers. Many college students lack basic skills, and high school students rank below those from two dozen other countries.

We then discussed the “cultural script”—a list of behavioral norms—that was almost universally endorsed between the end of World War II and the mid-1960s:

Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.

These norms defined a concept of adult responsibility that was, we wrote, “a major contributor to the productivity, educational gains and social coherence of that period.” The fact that the “bourgeois culture” these norms embodied has broken down since the 1960s, we argued, largely explains today’s social pathologies—and re-embracing that culture would go a long way toward addressing those pathologies.

 

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The Reagan Club meets on the first Thursday of every month at The Amazing Grace Community Church ( 541 E 99th Pl, Thornton, CO, 80229) from 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. with doors open at 6:00 p.m.. We feature different programs and speakers as we honor the 40th President. The Reagan Club of Colorado seeks to promote the Constitution, smaller government, lower taxes, personal freedom, helping candidates, and educating the public about one of our greatest presidents, Ronald Wilson Reagan.

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