Marriage Reduces Child Poverty in Florida By 78%

Column courtesy of Robert Rector from The Heritage Foundation:

The continuing collapse of marriage in America, along with a dramatic rise in births to single women, is the most important cause of childhood poverty. In Florida, for example, seven of every 10 poor families with children are headed by a single parent, most of them mothers.

Only 7 percent of married couples with children in Florida were poor in 2009, compared with a third of single-parent families with children (33.4 percent). In Florida, marriage drops the probability of a child’s living in poverty by 78 percent.

Such state numbers on marriage and poverty mirror the national ones. Ignoring the positive impact of marriage on children leads to faulty government policies. It’s tragic, really.

On Sept. 12, the U.S. Census Bureau is set to release its annual poverty report. We’re likely to hear that more than 16 million children in America — about one in five — are poor. Clearly the current recession with its high unemployment pushed up these numbers. But the fact is the child poverty rate was high before the recession and will remain so after it ends.

In 2010, nearly half of all children born in Florida were born outside marriage. Sadly, the women most likely to have children without being married are those with the least ability to support children financially on their own. About 75 percent of births to Florida women who are high school dropouts occur outside marriage. Among women who are college graduates, only 11.5 percent of births are out of wedlock.

America is splitting into two economic castes: In the top, children are raised by married couples with a college education. In the bottom, children are raised by single mothers with a high school diploma or less.

Policymakers at the state and national level, of course, know that education reduces poverty. But they’re largely unaware that marriage is an equally strong anti-poverty weapon. Remarkably, being married is as strong a factor in reducing poverty as graduating from high school. In Florida, married couples with children are 74 percent less likely to be poor than single-parent families with the same level of education.

The nation wisely spends billions of dollars a year to educate low-income children, and billions more for means-tested welfare aid for single mothers. But, despite the massive impact of marriage in reducing poverty, government does little or nothing to discourage births outside marriage — and nothing to encourage healthy marriages.

Many common misconceptions persist. This isn’t about teen pregnancy: Most non-marital births occur to women in their early 20s. Girls under 18 account for only about seven of every 100 births outside marriage. Also, lack of access to birth control isn’t a significant factor.

Some claim unmarried fathers just aren’t “marriageable.” In fact, the overwhelming majority are. These fathers have jobs and, on average, have higher earnings than the mothers. If they remained in the home, child poverty would drop dramatically.

Are low-income single mothers hostile to marriage? No. Research shows most look quite favorably on the institution. They simply don’t see marriage as something that should come before the baby carriage. The result is sustained high levels of child poverty and a host of related social problems.

We need to develop new policies that build on these positive attitudes about marriage. Policymakers and ordinary citizens, looking at these numbers, should demand that government provide facts about the value of marriage to at-risk youth.

For instance, government ought to connect low-income couples with community resources to help them learn, or relearn, skills needed to build and sustain healthy marriages — before they bring children into the world.

It’s also imperative to reform the welfare system to encourage rather than penalize marriage.

Just as government discourages young people from doing drugs or dropping out of school, it should expose the severe shortcomings of the “child first, marriage later” philosophy — especially in low-income communities. Then we will begin to lift millions of children out of poverty.

ABOUT ROBERT RECTOR:

Robert Rector, is a leading authority on poverty and the welfare system, is senior research fellow in domestic policy at The Heritage Foundation. He is author of the new report “Marriage: America’s Greatest Weapon Against Child Poverty” with related papers and charts for Florida and the other states.

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Mark Mather from the Population Reference Bureau reports, “In the United States, the number of children in single-mother families has risen dramatically over the past four decades, causing considerable concern among policymakers and the public. Researchers have identified the rise in single-parent families (especially mother-child families) as a major factor driving the long-term increase in child poverty in the United States.” To read the full report click here.

Hasner Campaign: Both Parties Created This Jobs Crisis

This week the Adam Hasner for US House Campaign launches the “It’s About Math” informational series. Between now and Election Day, Adam will be focusing on the real numbers and real issues of great importance to the residents of Florida’s District 22.

“So many people I speak with, regardless of political party, are sick and tired of the name calling and scare tactics,” Adam Hasner said. “What they really want to know is whether or not you have a plan to get America’s fiscal house in order and get our economy moving again. Every day I am talking about just that. I’m hopeful this debate can be about the real differences I have with my opponent on getting spending under control, creating jobs and improving the lives of people in our community. Solving our nation’s problems isn’t about Republicans or Democrats or any political philosophy. It’s about math.”

A key number from the August jobs report released last week was 368,000. That is the number of Americans who stopped looking for work and are no longer counted in the US labor force by the United States Labor Department. (Wall Street Journal, Five Key Takeaways from Jobs Report, 9/7/12).

“This number itself is telling, but it also says more about the individual stories of the college student who can’t find a job, a dad who got laid off, a mom who’s working less hours than she wants to or needs to, a senior who’s had to go back to work to make ends meet because they lost their retirement savings,” said Hasner.

“Behind this number are the stories of the people who are losing hope and beginning to believe that our country’s best days are behind us. It’s distressing that people are giving up. We can do better and they deserve better.

“While the official unemployment rate hovers above 8% for the 43rd consecutive month – perpetuating the slowest economic recovery in decades – Lois Frankel continues to distract attention from spending and the economy and remains silent about what should we do to create jobs.

“That’s most likely because she knows her record on job creation as Mayor was abysmal. Lois Frankel entered office in West Palm Beach with the city’s unemployment rate at 5.4%. But by the time she left office 8 years later, the unemployment rate in her city had climbed to 10.6%. The numbers prove that she didn’t have solutions for West Palm Beach and she’s failed to offer any ideas on how to get our nation’s economy back on track.

“Mayor Frankel continues to support the same misguided Washington policies that for the last 43 months have been failing small businesses, families and hard-working Americans.

“Both parties got us into this mess, but now isn’t the time to point fingers and place blame. It’s time for a new approach:

  • We must reform the current tax code to make it flatter, fairer, and simpler and eliminate loopholes and exemptions.
  • We must eliminate hurdles to form new businesses and right-size regulations that are currently stifling economic growth with red tape and compliance costs and do it with a balanced approach that protects our natural resources and protects consumers.
  • We must unleash the power of Made in America energy with new technologies for safe development of domestic oil and natural gas. Affordable energy is a key factor in creating jobs and attracting companies to bring manufacturing jobs back home.
  • We must also focus on education and worker training initiatives to get the long term unemployed back to work.
  • “What small businesses need is certainty, knowing what to expect so they can make critical decisions to hire new employees, invest in new equipment, and expand their operations.

“It’s time for common-sense policies that will empower private sector job creation to help Main Street get back on its feet and get America’s economy back on the move.

Sarasota County’s 2009 Jobs Plan – An Analysis

Jobs are top of mind during the 2012 election cycle. Elected officials from President Obama on down are touting their pro-economic growth records and job creation skills. Sarasota County is no exception. It is appropriate to review their on going efforts to “create jobs” in Sarasota County, FL.

In April 2009 Sarasota County released its Five-Year Economic Development Strategic Plan. The Five-Year Plan states, “Community and business leaders have made it clear that a shotgun approach will no longer work. This proposed plan is based on five guiding principles: Promote the growth/health of existing businesses; Create an environment that promotes homegrown businesses and innovation; Diversify the economy through platforms that build on our unique assets; Make strategic plays in emerging markets; ƒ Leverage resources and investments to grow capacity to pursue economic opportunities.”

The plan may be characterized as the County Commission’s “jobs bill”. The strategic plan, now in its third year, recognized that the recession had hit Sarasota. 

Based upon the strategic plan, the Sarasota Board of County Commissioners on September 15, 2010 passed Resolution 2010-199. It created a goal to “promote economic activity in the County by providing economic incentives that will encourage diverse new businesses to relocate to Sarasota County and current businesses to expand.” One of the things created was an “economic development fund” and an incentives or awards program. One of the purposes is to attract new or help expanding companies that “provide an above-average wage to its employees”.

The resolution goes into great detail to lay out a series of “Economic Development Factors” that “shall be applied when the Board makes its determination on ad valorem tax exemptions to a requesting business”. But what about guidelines for the “economic development fund”? This question is germane as the fund has already given out $4,482,303 with an additional $5,527,797 in awards remaining to be paid. The $10 million for this “fund” came from the sale of foreclosed properties and collection of unpaid County property taxes. Click here to view the 2012 Economic Development report to the County (slides 65-68).

Jeff Maultsby, Manager of Business and Economic Development, Steve Botelho and Lisa Damschroder from the Office of Financial Planning and Joan McGill, Vice President of Business Development at the Economic Development Corporation, said there is no system in place to select the best candidates to meet the goals established by the County Commission. As of now there is no way to accurately determine any return on investment to the County from these awards (staff indicated the purchase of a software program may to help address this).

Here is an analysis of the County economic development efforts to date:

Of the $4.48 million awarded, PGT received $600,00 and Tervis Tumbler $450,00 (two awards) given since 2010, for a combined total payout of $1,050,000 (23% of all awards to date). These two companies actually added the following: PGT – 432 jobs, Tervis Tumbler – 413 jobs. PGT and Tervis Tumbler added 845 or 80.6% of 1,048 jobs created to date under this awards program.

This would seem like a big win for the County until one drills down a little deeper.

As Resolution 2010-199 states the County Commission wants to attract and expand businesses with an “above-average wage”. The average wage for all industries in Sarasota County according to the Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research is $38,660.

According to County staff the actual average wages are: PGT $24,335 (initially projected average wage of $29,500), Tervis Tumbler $26,572 (initially projected average wage of $31,500). Both companies fell well short of the existing County average wage of $38,660: PGT 38% lower and Tervis Tumbler 31% lower. If the County wanted above-average wages they did not get them with these two companies. Even the “projected average wages” for each company were below the County average wage.

If the goal is above-average wages then why give money to any company projecting below-average wages?

Would these jobs have been created without the County awards? According to PGT President Rodney Hershberger the company was planning to close its plant in North Carolina in the 2006-2007 time frame due to the housing slump. The greatest concern was a lack of land and buildings. In the middle of 2010 PGT began looking at options to move the equipment and employees to Florida, with Sarasota, Jacksonville and Miami as possible sites. PGT primarily serves customers in Florida with impact (hurricane) windows and the North Carolina plant was half impact and half non-impact windows. The plant would be closed and operations moved closer to its Florida market. The intent was to move employees to Florida. However, due to deep family roots at the NC plant only 30 employees actually relocated to Sarasota County. Sarasota was always the top choice because this is where PGT was founded and its the central home location, which best serves its impact windows market. Rodney said of the newly hired employees about 70% live in Sarasota, 10% in Manatee County and 20% in Charlotte County. According to Tim Graham, VP of Human Resources for Tervis Tumbler, “Through the assistance provided to Tervis by the EDC grant we were able to substantially increase our production capacity and employment at Tervis.” PGT used its award to off set the cost of moving equipment. Tervis used its two awards to off set impact fees.

Why did Sarasota County taxpayers invest over $1 million in two well established local companies?

Let’s take a look at the remaining 203 jobs “created” to date. Forty-one had an average wage below the County average. The remaining 162 jobs had an average wage of $52,496 or 36% higher than the County average. This average wage increase was offset by the 886 below-average wage jobs.

There remain award commitments of over $5.5 million for the creation of a “projected” 1260 jobs. Will these create more above-average wage jobs? According to the County spreadsheet the companies yet to produce jobs have a “projected average wage” of $50,232. The “actual average wage” of jobs created by these companies to date is $43,368 or 14% lower than the currently projected wages. Another issue is most of the money given to date was given up front before any jobs were created. The current contracts give companies anywhere from 1 to 6 years to actually create the jobs. It should be noted that only recently do the contracts with the County state that the awards will not be made until after the jobs are created. I believed they learned a harsh lesson from $650,000 awarded to Sandborn Studios on September 2, 2010 with no jobs created to date.

Finally, there are nine awards listed on the Economic Development Incentives spreadsheet to either other governments (e.g. City of North Port Economic Development Study, City of Sarasota Newtown Business Assistance Program) or non-profit agencies (e.g. SCOPE – Institute for the Ages, Rev 3 Triathlon). How does a triathlon attract companies offering above-average jobs you may ask? The monies allocated to these governmental and non-profit entities total $3.84 million or 70% of all remaining awards. This allocation of funding is interesting for two reasons 1) there is no system to measure jobs created by inter-governmental transfers and 2) there is already in place a competitive system to allocate funds to non-profit organizations run by the same office that runs this business incentive awards program. This system has been totally bypassed using these “business” awards to non-profits. The awards may violate the intent if not the verbiage of the County Resolution 2010-199 “to relocate and expand existing businesses”. I did not know the County wanted more non-profits who don’t pay taxes to the County!

The Sarasota County Commission took money owed to taxpayers and redistributed it to a stimulus program that: lacked strict/measurable criteria for awarding the money, created jobs that by enlarge offer below-average wages and has no accurate way to measure any return on the taxpayers investment to the County.

The Sarasota County Commission on Tuesday, June 26, 2012 voted unanimously to repeal and replace Resoluton 2010-199 related to economic incentives provided for businesses that relocate to the county.

David E. Merrill, Sarasota business owner and former Mayor of the City of Sarasota, in a September 8, 2012 email to the County Commissioners stated, “So that you don’t look as foolish as Charlie Christ and the city and county commissioners in St. Lucie, I urge you to stop giving ‘corporate welfare’ checks to companies in the name of economic development, and, instead, focus on building a really great community through wise urban design and a focus on aesthetics and quality-of-life issues.  Let the bankers and investors fund private businesses, not our governments.”

Government does not create jobs, profits do. The more products produced the more profit generated. As demand rises, profits rise and more workers are needed to provide the product or service offered. Without profit there can be no job growth. Government must take profits from one company and redistribute it to another to meet government’s goals.

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Media Matters vs. Investors Business Daily

As President Obama prepares to take the stage tonight and accept his party’s nomination for re-election there is an ongoing discussion about the state of the economy. The great question is: Are we as a nation better off today than four years ago?

Media Matters and Investors Business Daily (IBD) have both tried to answer this question. Each came to a different conclusion.

Media Matters states, “In their attempts to grapple with the question of whether Americans are better off, cable news outlets have regularly failed to provide important context about the dire state of the economy in late 2008, when millions of jobs were lost.” Investors Business Daily reports, “Obama’s argument is simple: The economy was headed for a second Great Depression when he took office — hemorrhaging GDP and jobs. His stimulus, the auto bailouts and so on, prevented that, and the economy has since been slowly digging out of the massive ditch into which President Bush drove it. Thus, Obama says, he deserves an ‘incomplete’ grade.”

Media Matters focuses on statements from five economists reflecting upon September 2008 and the financial crisis. Diana Henriques, who covered finance for The New York Times, states, “September 2008 was one of the scariest months I have ever experienced as a business reporter. We had seen Bear Stearns nearly fail, we had seen Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac taken under receivership.”

IBD takes a comparative approach, looking at key indicators then and now. IBD uses the following examples to answer the question:

• Median incomes: These have fallen 7.3% since Obama took office, which translates into an average of $4,000. Since the so-called recovery started, median incomes continued to fall, dropping $2,544, or 4.8%.

• Long-term unemployed: More than three years into Obama’s recovery, 811,000 more still fall into this category than when the recession ended.

• Poverty: The poverty rate climbed to 15.1% in 2010, up from 14.3% in 2009, and economists think it may have hit 15.7% last year, highest since the 1960s.

• Food stamps: There are 11.8 million more people on food stamps since Obama’s recovery started.

• Disability: More than 1 million workers have been added to Social Security’s disability program in the last three years.

• Gas prices: A gallon of gas cost $1.89 when Obama was sworn in. By June 2009, the price was $2.70. Today, it’s $3.84.

• Misery Index: When Obama took office, the combination of unemployment and inflation stood at 7.83. Today it’s 9.71.

• Union membership: Even unions are worse off under Obama, with membership dropping half a million between 2009 and 2011.

• Debt: Everyone is far worse off if you just look at the national debt. It has climbed more than $5 trillion under Obama, crossing $16 trillion for the first time on Tuesday and driving the U.S. credit rating down.

Media Matters states, “Other veteran financial scribes point to the overall economic picture today as compared to 2008, while also noting that the positive direction of the economy is important, too. Their comments are supported by a number of key indicators: The economy has grown for twelve consecutive quarters; private sector employment has grown for 29 consecutive months, adding millions of jobs; and the Dow Jones Industrial Average has nearly doubled from its low point in March 2009.”

Media Matters quotes Kevin Hall, McClatchy’s national economics correspondent, as saying, “If you go back and look at the charts — you can pull up the GDP chart, we are growing 2 to 2.2 percent — you would say it is clearly yes, compared to a 3.7 percent contraction in the third quarter of 2008, followed by an 8.9 percent contraction in the fourth quarter of 2008.”

The real indicator of if we are doing better will not be determined by economists or statistics. It will be determined at kitchen tables across America. What each family, individual and business owner feels and experiences will determine the truth about are we better off. This will translate into motivation to vote for or against a particular candidate.

Bottom line: Are YOU better off today than 4 years ago?

RELATED COLUMN: The Five ‘Reasons’ to Re-elect Obama By Larry Elder

Higher Gas Prices Add to Economic Slump

Courtesy of the Heritage Foundation:

Unemployment is at 8.3 percent. The economy is sputtering at 1.5 percent growth. Food prices are rising due to drought conditions across the country. And gas prices are up again, pinching Americans’ summer budgets. It is past time for the President and Congress to pursue smart policies that would put us on a path to relief.

According to AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report, the current national average for regular is $3.66 per gallon. That’s up 28 cents per gallon from a month ago, and July had its biggest price jump since AAA started tracking prices in 2000. To see the average for Florida click here.

There are many factors affecting prices that we cannot control—worldwide tensions, especially in the Middle East, can drive up oil prices. Global demand, especially from China and India’s rapidly growing economies, continues upward.

But after three years of adding regulatory hurdles and blocking exploratory access and development, President Obama’s policies are helping keep prices higher than necessary.

If the President truly wanted to lower gas prices, he would work to increase supply. But when given the opportunity, he has done the opposite. He turned down the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada. His Administration has made it even harder for companies to explore and extract domestic energy resources by canceling, delaying, or withdrawing a number of lease sales for exploration and development. Meanwhile, huge swaths of federal lands have been put off limits for energy exploration.

Domestic refinery outages have had a recent impact on gas prices. Two of the factors holding back domestic energy production are regulatory red tape and litigation—and these, we can do something about. As Heritage’s Nicolas Loris notes:

Environmental activists delay new energy projects by filing endless administrative appeals and lawsuits. Creating a manageable time frame for permitting and for groups or individuals to contest energy plans would keep potentially cost-effective ventures from being tied up for years in litigation while allowing the public and interested parties to voice opposition or support for these projects.

We don’t have to stand still. Congress could alleviate the energy crunch in 10 different ways by taking action on things we can control, like restrictions on oil shale development and offshore drilling.

One of the most common objections is that increasing domestic oil production takes too long and would not impact the market for at least a decade. The longer people make this argument, however, the longer it will take. The sooner we make investments in domestic energy, the sooner those benefits will be realized. And with some serious reforms, some of this oil can reach the market in much less than a decade.

Gas prices aren’t under the control of any one President. But Americans shouldn’t settle for policies that restrict oil exploration, refining, and production and artificially drive prices higher.

MORE FROM THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION:

High Gas Prices: Obama’s Half-Truths vs. Reality

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Watch Out Florida Here Comes Our “Bubble Government”

Recently in a radio interview Robert Wiedemer co-author of America’s Bubble Economy and Aftershock and Edward J. Pinto, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute discussed the idea of the United States having a “bubble government”. Wiedemer stated that America has suffered through “a number of financial bubbles” and the “aftershock following each”. To date each of these bubbles, the most recent being the housing bubble, have burst and fallen onto two other looming bubbles. These two bubbles are the “dollar bubble” and the “debt bubble”.

These two bubbles are primed to burst and the pin is called inflation.

The Wall Street Journal headline for April 5, 2012 was “Markets Fear End of Stimulus” written by Jonathan Cheng and Charles Forelle. What is the great concern? According to Cheng and Forelle, “European Central Bank President Mario Draghi indicated he would be hesitant to undertake more monetary easing, citing concerns about inflation.” Monetary easing (a.k.a. government stimulus or quantitative easing) is governments printing money. Today American is awash in money due to our government printing it with no end in sight – the dollar bubble is upon us.

Congress has failed in their Constitutional duty to pass a budget in nearly four years. The U.S. government runs on continuing resolutions and Congress has raised the debt ceiling to an astounding $15+ trillion dollars. In 2011 Congress spent nearly 55% more than it collect in revenues. The debt ceiling will be breached yet again before the November 6, 2012 elections. This all has caused our government to borrow at an unprecedented rate of 40 cents of every dollar – the debt bubble.

What does that all have to do with Florida?

Florida is especially vulnerable to the aftershock of either a dollar or debt bubble burst. Florida’s barely recovering housing market and our large population of fixed income retirees are in the cross hairs should inflation increase even fractionally.

According to Edward J. Pinto, “One in four [Federal Housing Administration] FHA loans outstanding in Georgia and New Jersey are now thirty-days-plus delinquent, with eight additional states having delinquency rates above 20 percent. The national rate is 17.79 percent.” Florida has a delinquency rate of 23.07%. Pinto points out, “FHA is estimated to have a current net worth of -$16.923 billion, approximately $18 billion less than the ‘economic net worth’ set forth in FHA’s 2011 Actuarial Study.”

Pinto states, “The Government Mortgage Complex (GMC), consisting of FHA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Veterans Administration and Federal Department of Agriculture, is bankrupt. The Government Mortgage Complex guarantees about $6 trillion in in home mortgages, yet has zero capital backing it. Fannie and Freddie do owe the government nearly $200 billion and counting.”

When inflation kicks in, as it is in Europe, the bond markets will tank, as they have in Spain, and Florida will be facing a double dip recession because many retirees have invested in bonds.

President Obama, the Federal Reserve and Congress will do everything they can to not let this collapse happen before the November 2012 elections. However, they may not be able to stop it, as the markets are already reacting to failed attempts at austerity in the EU and the rising cost of debt.

These two bubbles are coming home to roost in America.

When they burst the burden will fall most heavily upon the American taxpayer a rapidly diminishing species. There is not the political will to address either bubble until they burst and a national crisis occurs. As the argument goes “never let a good crisis go to waste” but this time the austerity solutions will be Draconian.

A possible scenario is a replay of the October surprise of 2008 – a meltdown of the financial markets. Are we being set up for another TARP or Stimulus III? Time will tell.

Republicans and Democrats Alike Want Higher Food, Fuel and Energy Prices

Gallup Politics recently did an Environmental poll (see the below chart). The results shows that a majority of Republicans and super majority of Democrats favor actions that will lead to higher food, fuel and energy prices. While there are more Republicans that favor opening public lands to exploration and drilling the end results of their support for policies like increasing regulations to reduce “emissions and pollution standards for businesses” means higher costs for all consumers.

Americans polled may not understand the difference between “emissions” and “pollution”.

Emissions/greenhouse gasses, e.g. CO2, primarily occur due to water evaporation from the earth’s oceans and seas. When 50% of Republicans want government to “impose mandatory controls on carbon dioxide emissions” many consumers wonder if they understand that we cannot control water evaporation from happening. The EPA recently issued a CO2 emissions ruling that impacts all of U.S. coal fired plants and will cause many to shut down because they cannot meet the new standards. This will drive up energy costs and thereby food costs.

Government spending on solar and wind power has been a disaster with many of the companies failing to produce a cost effective product, moving their operations to China or going bankrupt. All of these companies are a further drain on our economy because they are not producing cheap and reliable power, they are producing just the opposite, which drives up energy costs and thereby food costs.

While Republicans generally favor opening public lands to oil, natural gas and oil shale exploration and production, nearly half want stronger enforcement of environmental regulations and higher emission standards for automobiles. One negates the other.

The environmentalists are licking their lips at these numbers.

The pollster’s state:

Gallup has tracked seven of the eight proposals periodically since 2001. Support for all but nuclear energy has declined since last measured in 2007, with the largest drops seen for spending government money to develop alternative sources of fuel for automobiles, strengthening enforcement of environmental regulations, and setting higher auto emissions standards.

These declines could be due to Americans’ reduced priority in the last several years for preserving the environment at the expense of economic growth, an outgrowth of the economic downturn. However, they are also likely to stem from heightened public concern about government spending and regulations specifically, particularly among Republicans.

Some do not find these numbers low enough to keep Republicans, in an election year, from stopping the power grab by the EPA. If this is a campaign issue then the consumer loses. As food, fuel and energy prices rise so will inflation. The column “Our Bubble Government” notes that inflation will burst both the dollar and debt bubbles. The higher the cost of goods and borrowing the more likely the current recession will last or deepen.

From this Gallup Environment poll some see trouble brewing on the horizon and its name is – inflation.

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Commerce is the Profession of Equals

I recently had lunch with a good friend who is a commercial real-estate broker. After exchanging pleasantries we entered into an extended discussion of the role of government in the control of what my friend describes as “dirt”. Real-estate is after all basically “dirt”.

He was concerned that one developer can devalue the dirt of another developer.

He used the example of a “dirt” owner constructing a five-story building near the waterfront, something we have a lot of in Florida. Along comes another developer and he or she builds in front of the first developer an eighteen-story building, thereby blocking the water view of the first developer. The land value of the first developer declines because of this. My friend found this outrageous and wanted government to step in to protect the first builder against the second.

I said, rather forcefully to my friend, that this is an example of the free market working. Dirt rises and falls in value due to many factors, including the one my friend described. My solution was the first builder should tear down his five-story building and build a new thirty-story building, thereby regaining his view of the water and increasing the value of his dirt. My friend would have none of it. He wanted government to step in and prevent the second builder from building. He favored central government planning over market forces to determine the value of water front “dirt”.

Here in lies the problem.

In his book The Ruling Class: How They Corrupted America and What We Can Do about It, Professor Aneglo M. Codevilla states, “[The bi-partisan Ruling Class] proceeds from the premise of human inequality and leads to even greater inequality . . .[O]ur Ruling Class is making itself the arbiter of wealth and poverty. While economic value of anything depends on sellers and buyers agreeing on the value as civil equals in the absence of force, modern government is about nothing if not about tampering with civil equality.”

What my friend embraces is government as the final arbiter of the price of “dirt”.

Once government controls the price of dirt, it controls everything. According to Professor Codevilla, “[M]odern government makes valuable some things that are not, and devalues others that are.”

“Whatever else government may be, it is inherently a factory of privilege and inequality. Thus, if you are not among the favored guests at the table where officials make detailed lists of who is to receive what at whose expense, you are on the menu,” notes Professor Codevilla. This is the definition of “crony capitalism”. The bi-partisan Ruling Class teaches that prosperity is to be bought with the coin of political support. John Kenneth Galbraith characterized America’s economy as “private wealth amidst public squalor.”

I believe in the Catholic principle of “subsidiarity”. In the secular world, the principle of subsidiarity means that local government should do only those things that individuals cannot do for themselves, state government should do only those things that local government cannot do, and the federal government should do only those things that the individual states cannot do.

The title of this column is a quote from The Spirit of the Laws by Charles de Montesquieu who also wrote, “Peace is a natural effect of trade.” Beware of government eating dirt!

Lethal Narcissism

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describes narcissism as a personality disorder that “revolves around a pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and sense of entitlement.”

We all need a bit of narcissism that maintains our self-esteem and a positive outlook on life. Performing artists and sports figures, for example, need it to exert themselves to achieve in their fields of endeavor. Political figures, of course, also need a bit to advance and defend their point of view. It plays a role in providing leadership.

The problem is that it is often difficult to spot narcissism when it becomes a pathological disorder. In the case of the cult that Jim Jones fostered, it ended with the suicide of some nine hundred of his followers who gave a poisoned drink to their children and then took it themselves. History is filled with examples of men whose disorder led to the deaths of countless people to satisfy their delusions about themselves.

Some of the criteria of a narcissistic personality include:

1. Feels grandiose and self-important; exaggerates their achievements.

2. Is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence, unequaled brilliance, etc.

3. Is firmly convinced he or she is unique and can only be understood by other high-status people.

4. Requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation.

5. Feels entitled and demands automatic and full compliance with their expectations.

6. Uses others to achieve his or her own ends.

7. Is devoid of empathy and is unable to identify with or acknowledge the feelings and needs of others.

8. Is constantly envious of others; believes they feel that way about him.

9. Is arrogant, has haughty behaviors or attitudes coupled with rage when frustrated, contradicted, or confronted.

This description is taken from the American Psychiatric Association (1994) manual cited above. It is based as well on the writings of Dr, Sam Vaknin, an authority on narcissism and author of “Malignant Self-Love.” A key point Dr. Vaknin makes is that the narcissist is NOT self-aware; he lies to others and to himself, and he is “master of disguise.”

At this point, you are probably thinking that I am describing Barack Hussein Obama, but in fact I am quoting from Ali Sina’s book, “Understanding Muhammad and Muslims.” Sina is one of the world’s leading authorities on both and through his writings and website at http://www.faithfreedom.org/, has made it his mission to encourage Muslims to understand how Islam warps their normal human values of love, tolerance, and life itself.

It is bad enough to contemplate the damage President Obama has done in just under four years as President, but I believe that the world is on the edge of an Islamic Armageddon because the fundamental teachings of Islam permit otherwise sane people to do insane things.

It was insane to fly passenger jets into the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001 to kill nearly three thousand people to advance the global domination of Islam. Before and since, the West and elsewhere around the world, there has been a non-stop succession of terrorist acts for this purpose. On an individual basis there have been hundreds of thousands of acts of murder and terror carried out by Muslims.

Sina writes, “Islam advanced with terror. Muslims are convinced that terror and deception will eventually make them victorious. They have an example in their prophet. His successes are their inspiration. They will not relent unless they are crushed.”

“The Islamic world is sick,” says Sina. “It would be shortsighted to deny that the cause of this sickness is Islam. Almost every crime, every abuse and inhumanity perpetrated by Muslims is inspired by the examples set by Muhammad and justified through his words and deeds.”

The great genocides of the past and as recently as World War Two’s Holocaust that killed six to seven million European Jews and a comparable number of others were carried out by the pathological narcissist Hitler, whose acts were rivaled by Stalin, and Mao Tse Tung.

As world leaders seek reasons to hope that the Iranians will cease their quest of nuclear weapons, the ayatollahs have in mind a worldwide; cataclysmic genocide in order to bring about the return of the Shiite Twelfth Imam.

If it sounds crazy, it is.

Muslims hate Judaism and Christianity, as well as all other religions. Killing the “infidel”, the unbeliever, is deeply embedded and justified in Islam.

The Israelis know this better than most and for this reason they will likely risk everything to end the threat of a nuclear Iran. They have acted twice to destroy nuclear reactors in Iraq and in Syria. If they are successful, they will have saved mankind.

© Alan Caruba, 2012

A Short World Tour

The news of the world is on any given day is usually quite awful. Some days are worse than others and that seems to be the case of late.

On Thursday a Rasmussen Reports poll said that 62% of likely U.S. voters believe that economic growth is far more important than Obama’s socialist blather about “fairness.” Typically, 30% favored the latter.

There’s been a steady trickle of bad news for Americans wondering if we will ever see an economic recovery. The nation can recover, but only if we change presidents in November. The U.S. is headed straight over the cliff on January 1, 2013 if Congress does not take action to avoid the implementation of billions in tax increases and, for that matter, the repeal of Obamacare.

An automatic sequestration of funding will particularly hit defense, leaving its budget some 30% smaller in ten years. As a Wall Street Journal editorial noted on Thursday, “The U.S. would be left with the smallest Navy since World War I, the smallest ground forces in 70 years, and at just over 2.5% of GDP, the smallest defense budget since Pearl Harbor.” That spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

Let’s look beyond our shores.

I suspect that Europe is a long way from solving its financial crisis. The European Union has held more than seventeen summits in recent times and not one of them has “solved” the problem inherent in the Euro or the natural tendency of sovereign nations to look out for their own interests at the expense of others. Expecting the EU to overcome centuries of warfare, distrust, and mutual disdain, is not likely to have a happy outcome.

Back in October 2011, I shared my doubts about the EU, citing a book by Dr. Johan Van Overtveldt, “The End of the Euro”, subtitled “The uneasy future of the European Union.”

Overtveldt identified the central weakness of the European Union. “History teaches us that, in particular, the lack of real political union is a major barrier to the durability of a monetary union and its single currency.” The problem of the EU and the euro “is the loss of an independent monetary policy” because what works for Germany does not necessarily work for France, Spain, Italy, Greece, and the other EU members.”

Why something as obvious as this did not occur or did not deter the creation of the EU is one of those mysteries that must be left to future historians. Suffice to say, Germany is the EU’s strongest economy and, after Europe’s central banks get tired of moving billions around between them, the Germans will want to return to the deutschmark even if it takes a short term hit.

The Middle East is providing the usual barbaric blood and gore these days in Syria. Every one of its neighbors is praying that Bashar al-Assad, the second generation dictator there, will be killed ala Libya’s late Moammar Gadhafi so Syrians can patch together a government.

Egypt has held elections and a Muslim Brotherhood candidate is now its president, but the real power there is still held by the military and Mohamed Tantawi, its commander in chief. What we’re watching is political drama, not political reality.

Iraq has been experiencing the return of horrific bombings which are the usual Sunni versus Shiite discord.

On Wednesday the Iranians reminded us of their fanatical hatred of Jews, bombing a tourist bus in Bulgaria filled with young Israelis on holiday. They were swiftly identified as the perpetrators by Israel’s Prime Minister whose nation is literally surrounded by enemies. Israel’s (and America’s) biggest threat is a nuclear Iran and one is inclined to believe that the Israelis will never permit this to occur.

South America is a mixture of some nations such as Brazil doing well. Unfortunately Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez apparently will not die from cancer. Mexico is a virtual narco-state and conduit for drugs into the U.S. Mexicans just voted for the return of a political party noted for its history of corruption and its willingness to look the other way in exchange for less drug cartel violence.

Africa never seems to change for the better. For all the billions in foreign aid and charity that has been pumped into African nations over decades, they continue to fester in one fashion or another. There is so little good to be said of Africa that it rarely makes news.

Asia does not appear to pose any problems for the U.S. at present except for the huge amount of U.S. treasury notes held by China. President Obama is making noise on the campaign trail about China, but the U.S. is a wholly owned subsidiary. With a billion and a half people, China has its own problems. Meanwhile South Korea and Japan seem to be doing well enough. North Korea remains a disgrace to mankind.

Australia just had a “carbon tax” imposed on it by its government despite widespread opposition. It will ruin its economy and the lives of its citizens.

That’s a short world tour and I would suggest that if you have in mind taking a vacation this summer, you should consider the many wonders of America or Canada as opposed to the horrors of most other places.

© Alan Caruba, 2012

Former Small Business Owner Says “How Dare He!”

Dennis Vest a retired Pennsylvania business owner who is living in Sarasota, Florida sent out the following in an email. It is reprinted with his permission:

How dare someone, even if he is President of the United States, tell small business owners they did not get where they are on their own. What did he ever do to enhance our economy before he became President?

I worked 70-80 hours a week running my own business in an office complex I rented from another small business owner.

My 12 employees occupied the office. Each employee was paid above average salaries. When our client fees did not come in as scheduled the employees were paid first and I waited. I gave each employee three weeks vacation to start, set up a 401 k plan and paid their matching costs from my pocket, plus I paid each employee’s health insurance. I did this, not the government or Barrack Obama types. On top of this I paid very high taxes and had to match the social security and the workers comp costs for my employees. Unlike your Secretary of the Treasury I paid my taxes and so did my employees.

Except for $1,000, I paid for my daughter’s total college education. Her roommate, child of a single parent home, had her entire college paid for through needs-based grants. Some were state and federal needs based grants funded by the tax dollars from those fortunate enough to have a job—like my employees and me. The rest came from need-based grants from non-profit organizations like Rotary, Kiwanis and Jaycees. Those members are successful men and women who used their time and resources to raise money to help quality students who can not pay to attend college to obtain their higher education degrees. I often wonder where the students who get scholarships who funded their grant.. State and federal needs-based grants come from tax dollars and college funded scholarship grants from the institution’s general operating budget scholarship line item in the budget is partially funded from the funds parents who can pay all or something of the total cost and special scholarships from outside sources provided by alumni, friends, businesses, non-profit organizations and foundations. They are from tax dollars, tuition fees paid by those that do not qualify for scholarships (because they make too much money), and generous gifts from people who support the college with their donations.

I was away from my home and family two to four days a week working with clients. My clients were non-profit organizations. We raised money to help non-profits serve their clients and enhance and expand their programs. The money raised helped social service agencies expand their programs to serve more people in need. My also helped hospitals build new operating rooms, OBGYN birthing suites, expand emergency rooms areas and services and fund care for those who could not pay. Help to expand the work of local food banks, build new community libraries and to help colleges build new academic centers, dormitories and secure needed scholarship money to fund needs based scholarships and build and expand elementary and special needs schools set up to help single parent families and those on welfare was included in my fundraising.

The money we raised came from the generosity of individuals, businesses, corporations and foundations. Money was received from people who were fortunate to have jobs and earned their money. They were people who worked hard and helped others through their support. They earned it and shared it. This is the good old fashion American way—-remember that?

Now the Obama government wants to increase taxes on these people so they can spend it on foreign countries that do not like us, Chinese windmills, and electric cars from Findland. Companies that take government money and then declare bankruptcy, and federal judges who go on party retreats are all on the take. Other groups are government departments that go on annual fun retreats, and have retirement programs and healthcare plans of which the rest of us only dream about . The government wastes alot of our money and they are laughing behind our backs and calling us fools. We even pay for the President’s 160 trips across the nation and to fly his family to special vacations all on our funded tax dollars.

When the President has his way these hard working, tax paying and job creating people will be taxed at higher rates—–the non-profits will lose their donor base at the worst or at best face decreased giving. The President and his Senate “do nothings” will fund their projects and the people who get support from non-profit organizations will find themselves with less or nothing. The alleged”haves” will forced to increase their support of the government and those in need in the middle class or lower will get by on less. By the way Mr. President 50% of the people in the United States pay 90% of the taxes and 10% of the people pay over two thirds of the 90% (plus 46% of the people in the United States pay no taxes)—- so it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out who built most of the roads I used to get to work.

Don’t ever tell me that this small business owner did not get there through his own hard work and determination. If my business failed, it would have cost me my home and savings. I risked it all. If the companies you gave millions to failed they would just write it off and move on leaving us “bad citizens” holding the bag on your behalf. Also, do not tell us that small businesses do not impact our economy and the people in need in their communities and our country. We need to win back our amazing country and not strive to be like Europe. Mr. President you are polarizing this nation as it has never been polarized before by saying the rich and those who are comfortable are evil and have too much.

Now is the time for those of us who are working to keep America great and helping people have jobs (they pay taxes) to speak our with no apologies. We need to stand up right now and say enough is enough. Give us our country back and do not make it a European model.

FL Posts Second Largest Drop in Unemployment since 2010

In 2010 Rick Scott was propelled into the Governor’s mansion primarily by the Tea Party, 912 Project and other constitutional conservative groups. Upon taking office Governor Scott said “the axis of unemployment is taxation, regulation and litigation.” Since his inauguration he has worked to reduce unemployment in the state.

According to The Examiner , “Voters in 17 states elected new Republican governors in November 2010. This new breed of fiscally-conservative, tea party-supported Republican governors took office in January 2011.” Here in rank order are how these Republican led states unemployment rates changed since 2010:

Michigan – 10.9% to 8.5% = a decline of 2.4%

Florida – 10.9% to 8.6% = a decline of 2.3%

Nevada – 13.8% to 11.6% = a decline of 2.2%

Alabama – 9.3% to 7.4% = a decline of 1.9%

Ohio – 9.0% to 7.3% = a decline of 1.7%

Tennessee – 9.5% to 7.9% = a decline of 1.6%

South Carolina – 10.6% to 9.1% = a decline of 1.5%

Oklahoma – 6.2% to 4.8% = a decline of 1.4%

Georgia – 10.1% to 8.9% = a decline of 1.2%

Wyoming – 6.3% to 5.2% = a decline of 1.1%

Iowa – 6.1% to 5.1% = a decline of 1.0%

New Mexico – 7.7% to 6.7% = a decline of 1.0%

Wisconsin – 7.7% to 6.8% = a decline of 0.9%

Kansas – 6.9% to 6.1% = a decline of 0.8%

South Dakota – 5.0% to 4.3% = a decline of 0.7%

Maine – 8.0% to 7.4% = a decline of 0.6%

Pennsylvania – 8.0% to 7.4% = a decline of 0.6%

According to The Examiner, “For a comparison, in January 2011 the U.S. national unemployment rate stood at 9.1%. It is currently 8.2%, meaning that the national unemployment rate has declined by just 0.9% since then. Based on these percentages, it can be said that the job market in states with new Republican governors is improving a full 50% faster than the job market nationally.”

The Examiner also looked at eight states that elected new Democratic governors in 2010. Just like their Republican counterparts, these new Democratic governors took office in January 2011. Here’s how these Democrat led states rank in terms of unemployment:

Connecticut – 9.3% to 7.8% = a decline of 1.5%

Oregon – 9.9% to 8.4% = a decline of 1.5%

Vermont – 6.0% to 4.6% = a decline of 1.4%

California – 12.1% to 10.8% = a decline of 1.3%

Minnesota – 6.8% to 5.6% = a decline of 1.2%

Colorado – 8.8% to 8.1% = a decline of 0.7%

Hawaii – 6.7% to 6.3% = a decline of 0.4%

New York – 8.2% to 8.6% = an increase of 0.4%

The average drop in the unemployment rate in these Republican states was 0.95%, approximately the same as the drop seen nationally. “It’s interesting to note than one of these states (New York) has actually experienced an increase in its unemployment rate since January 2011,” stays The Examiner.

All politics is local and it appears from this data that unemployment may best be dealt with at the local level as well.

PODCAST: How Government Is Killing Businesses In FL

Allen Fugler, Executive Vice President Florida Pest Management Association in Orlando, FL and Tim Southerland from Southern Wood Producers Association and the American Loggers Council – Florida in Panama City, FL join Watchdog Wire Radio. Mr. Fugler and Mr. Southerland explain how government at every level is destroying small businesses in Florida and across America. Today it appears the business of government is to destroy small businesses according to Mr. Fugler and Mr. Southerland. Over regulation is keeping Florida small businesses from expanding and growing.

Listen to the podcast of this show and learn how government at every level is putting small businesses out of business from these two industry experts.

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST INTERVIEW BY CLICKING HERE

The next four years could bring a tidal wave of more than 4,100 regulations for the American economy. Regulations in the pipeline are estimated to cost the economy more than half a trillion dollars. To view a sampling of regulations, that will cost the economy $515 billion, click here.

Small Businesses for Sensible Regulations launched a nine-state campaign to raise awareness on the several thousand regulations that could go into effect if President Barack Obama is reelected. To learn more about the Small Businesses for Sensible Regulation coalition go to – http://stopthetidalwave.org.

Romney Applauded 27 Times at NAACP Convention

Major media wires are reporting that Mitt Romney was booed once during his speech at the NAACP Convention. This is a classic case of “man bites dog” reporting. What the news wires did not report is that during his twenty-five minute speech Governor Romney was how many times he was actually applauded. Reverend Wayne Perryman in an email notes, “The media did it again. They focused on the fact that Romney got booed at the NAACP Convention, but they didn’t say how many times they applauded him. I charted the speech and each time they applauded him during his speech. They Applauded Total of 27 times in 25 Minutes.” Following time sequence prepared by Reverend Perryman:

1:56 He would represent every race

2:58 He will help the middle class

3:58 He complimented the NAACP

6:39 You are entitled to an answer

7:27 A quote from Frederick Douglass

8:27 Blacks have waited long enough

9:53 He support strong families & traditional marriages

11:15 He will help the middle class

11:58 Bring Jobs back to the United States

12:24 He will clamp down on cheaters like China who steal our jobs

12:52 He will stop spending

13:02-13:18 He was booed regarding overturning Obama Care

14:22 He would protect social Security and Medicare with higher benefits for those with lower income and lower for higher income

14:51 He reference to minimum wage jobs and the need for skilled workers

15:52 Wages will rise again

16:28 His goal as President it to create jobs for American people

16:39 If you want a president to make things better for the African American Community, you’re looking at him

18:12 The 4 year Scholarships program that he created while governor

19:58 He joined with the Black Legislative Caucus in Mass to promote Charter Schools

20:36 He won’t let special interest groups stand in the way of education reform

21:03 Money for education will be linked to the student for true choice

21:49 The hospitality that they (NAACP) will be returned and he will seek their counsel

22:12 If they invite him back next year as President he will say “Yes”

22:57 He talks about his father as a man that he admired for equality and justice

23:14 His father was a man of faith that knew that everyone was God’s children

24:01 He said God’s Mercy endureth forever

24:55 NAACP and their past victories and their victories in the future

25:15 Ended his speech

The full text of Mitt Romney’s speech follows:

Thank you, Bishop Graves, for your generous introduction. Thanks also to President Ben Jealous and Chairman Roslyn Brock for the opportunity to be here this morning, and for your hospitality. It is an honor to address you.

I appreciate the chance to speak first – even before Vice President Biden gets his turn tomorrow. I just hope the Obama campaign won’t think you’re playing favorites.

You all know something of my background, and maybe you’ve wondered how any Republican ever becomes governor of Massachusetts in the first place. Well, in a state with 11 percent Republican registration, you don’t get there by just talking to Republicans. We have to make our case to every voter. We don’t count anybody out, and we sure don’t make a habit of presuming anyone’s support. Support is asked for and earned – and that’s why I’m here today.

With 90 percent of African-Americans voting for Democrats, some of you may wonder why a Republican would bother to campaign in the African American community, and to address the NAACP. Of course, one reason is that I hope to represent all Americans, of every race, creed or sexual orientation, from the poorest to the richest and everyone in between.

But there is another reason: I believe that if you understood who I truly am in my heart, and if it were possible to fully communicate what I believe is in the real, enduring best interest of African American families, you would vote for me for president. I want you to know that if I did not believe that my policies and my leadership would help families of color — and families of any color — more than the policies and leadership of President Obama, I would not be running for president.

The opposition charges that I and people in my party are running for office to help the rich. Nonsense. The rich will do just fine whether I am elected or not. The President wants to make this a campaign about blaming the rich. I want to make this a campaign about helping the middle class.

I am running for president because I know that my policies and vision will help hundreds of millions of middle class Americans of all races, will lift people from poverty, and will help prevent people from becoming poor. My campaign is about helping the people who need help. The course the President has set has not done that – and will not do that. My course will.

When President Obama called to congratulate me on becoming the presumptive Republican nominee, he said that he, “looked forward to an important and healthy debate about America’s future.” To date, I’m afraid that his campaign has taken a different course than that.

But, in campaigns at their best, voters can expect a clear choice, and candidates can expect a fair hearing – only more so from a venerable organization like this one. So, it is that healthy debate about the course of the nation that I want to discuss with you today.

If someone had told us in the 1950s or 1960s that a black citizen would serve as the forty-fourth president, we would have been proud and many would have been surprised. Picturing that day, we might have assumed that the American presidency would be the very last door of opportunity to be opened. Before that came to pass, every other barrier on the path to equal opportunity would surely have come down.

Of course, it hasn’t happened quite that way. Many barriers remain. Old inequities persist. In some ways, the challenges are even more complicated than before. And across America — and even within your own ranks — there are serious, honest debates about the way forward.

If equal opportunity in America were an accomplished fact, then a chronically bad economy would be equally bad for everyone. Instead, it’s worse for African Americans in almost every way. The unemployment rate, the duration of unemployment, average income, and median family wealth are all worse for the black community. In June, while the overall unemployment rate remained stuck at 8.2 percent, the unemployment rate for African Americans actually went up, from 13.6 percent to 14.4 percent.
Americans of every background are asking when this economy will finally recover – and you, in particular, are entitled to an answer.

If equal opportunity in America were an accomplished fact, black families could send their sons and daughters to public schools that truly offer the hope of a better life. Instead, for generations, the African-American community has been waiting and waiting for that promise to be kept. Today, black children are 17 percent of students nationwide – but they are 42 percent of the students in our worst-performing schools.

Our society sends them into mediocre schools and expects them to perform with excellence, and that is not fair. Frederick Douglass observed that, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Yet, instead of preparing these children for life, too many schools set them up for failure. Everyone in this room knows that we owe them better than that.

The path of inequality often leads to lost opportunity. College, graduate school, and first jobs should be milestones marking the passage from childhood to adulthood. But for too many disadvantaged young people, these goals seem unattainable – and their lives take a tragic turn.

Many live in neighborhoods filled with violence and fear, and empty of opportunity. Their impatience for real change is understandable. They are entitled to feel that life in America should be better than this. They are told even now to wait for improvements in our economy and in our schools, but it seems to me that these Americans have waited long enough.

The point is that when decades of the same promises keep producing the same failures, then it’s reasonable to rethink our approach – and consider a new plan.

I’m hopeful that together we can set a new direction in federal policy, starting where many of our problems do – with the family. A study from the Brookings Institution has shown that for those who graduate from high school, get a full-time job, and wait until 21 before they marry and then have their first child, the probability of being poor is two percent. And if those factors are absent, the probability of being poor is 76 percent.

Here at the NAACP, you understand the deep and lasting difference the family makes. Your former executive director, Dr. Benjamin Hooks, had it exactly right. The family, he said, “remains the bulwark and the mainstay of the black community. That great truth must not be overlooked.”

Any policy that lifts up and honors the family is going to be good for the country, and that must be our goal. As President, I will promote strong families – and I will defend traditional marriage.

As you may have heard from my opponent, I am also a believer in the free-enterprise system. I believe it can bring change where so many well-meaning government programs have failed. I’ve never heard anyone look around an impoverished neighborhood and say, “You know, there’s too much free enterprise around here. Too many shops, too many jobs, too many people putting money in the bank.”

What you hear, of course, is how do we bring in jobs? How do we make good, honest employers want to move in and stay? And with the shape this economy is in, we’re asking that more than ever.

Free enterprise is still the greatest force for upward mobility, economic security, and the expansion of the middle class. We have seen in recent years what it’s like to have less free enterprise. As President, I will show the good things that can happen when we have more – more business activity, more jobs, more opportunity, more paychecks, more savings accounts.

On Day One, I will begin turning this economy around with a plan for the middle class. And I don’t mean just those who are middle class now – I also mean those who have waited so long for their chance to join the middle class.

I know what it will take to put people back to work, to bring more jobs and better wages. My jobs plan is based on 25 years of success in business. It has five key steps.

First, I will take full advantage of our energy resources, and I will approve the Keystone pipeline from Canada. Low cost, plentiful coal, natural gas, oil, and renewables will bring over a million manufacturing jobs back to the United States.

Second, I will open up new markets for American products. We are the most productive major economy in the world, so trade means good jobs for Americans. But trade must be free and fair, so I’ll clamp down on cheaters like China and make sure that they finally play by the rules.

Third, I will reduce government spending. Our high level of debt slows GDP growth and that means fewer jobs. If our goal is jobs, we must, must stop spending over a trillion dollars more than we earn. To do this, I will eliminate expensive non-essential programs like Obamacare, and I will work to reform and save Medicare and Social Security, in part by means-testing their benefits.

Fourth, I will focus on nurturing and developing the skilled workers our economy so desperately needs and the future demands. This is the human capital with which tomorrow’s bright future will be built. Too many homes and too many schools are failing to provide our children with the skills and education that are essential for anything other than a minimum-wage job.

And finally and perhaps most importantly, I will restore economic freedom. This nation’s economy runs on freedom, on opportunity, on entrepreneurs, on dreamers who innovate and build businesses. These entrepreneurs are being crushed by high taxation, burdensome regulation, hostile regulators, excessive healthcare costs, and destructive labor policies. I will work to make America the best place in the world for innovators and entrepreneurs and businesses small and large.

Do these five things – open up energy, expand trade, cut the growth of government, focus on better educating tomorrow’s workers today, and restore economic freedom – and jobs will come back to America, and wages will rise again. The President will say he will do those things, but he will not, he cannot, and his record of the last four years proves it.

If I am president, job one for me will be creating jobs. I have no hidden agenda. If you want a president who will make things better in the African American community, you are looking at him.

Finally, I will address the institutionalized inequality in our education system. And I know something about this from my time as governor.

In the years before I took office our state’s leaders had come together to pass bipartisan measures that were making a difference. In reading and in math, our students were already among the best in the nation – and during my term, they took over the top spot.

Those results revealed what good teachers can do if the system will only let them. The problem was, this success wasn’t shared. A significant achievement gap between students of different races remained. So we set out to close it.

I urged faster interventions in failing schools, and the funding to go along with it. I promoted math and science excellence in schools, and proposed paying bonuses to our best teachers.

I refused to weaken testing standards, and instead raised them. To graduate from high school, students had to pass an exam in math and English – I added a science requirement as well. And I put in place a merit scholarship for those students who excelled: the top 25 percent of students in each high school were awarded a John and Abigail Adams Scholarship – which meant four years tuition-free at any Massachusetts public institution of higher learning.

When I was governor, not only did test scores improve – we also narrowed the achievement gap.

The teachers unions were not happy with a number of these reforms. They especially did not like our emphasis on choice through charter schools, particularly for our inner city kids. Accordingly, the legislature passed a moratorium on any new charter schools.

As you know, in Boston, in Harlem, in Los Angeles, and all across the country, charter schools are giving children a chance, children that otherwise could be locked in failing schools. I was inspired just a few weeks ago by the students in one of Kenny Gamble’s charter schools in Philadelphia. Right here in Houston is another success story: the Knowledge Is Power Program, which has set the standard, thanks to the groundbreaking work of the late Harriet Ball.

These charter schools are doing a lot more than closing the achievement gap. They are bringing hope and opportunity to places where for years there has been none.

Charter schools are so successful that almost every politician can find something good to say about them. But, as we saw in Massachusetts, true reform requires more than talk. As Governor, I vetoed the bill blocking charter schools. But our legislature was 87 percent Democrat, and my veto could have been easily over-ridden. So I joined with the Black Legislative Caucus, and their votes helped preserve my veto, which meant that new charter schools, including some in urban neighborhoods, would be opened.

When it comes to education reform, candidates cannot have it both ways – talking up education reform, while indulging the same groups that are blocking reform. You can be the voice of disadvantaged public-school students, or you can be the protector of special interests like the teachers unions, but you can’t be both. I have made my choice: As president, I will be a champion of real education reform in America, and I won’t let any special interest get in the way.

I will give the parents of every low-income and special needs student the chance to choose where their child goes to school. For the first time in history, federal education funds will be linked to a student, so that parents can send their child to any public or charter school, or to a private school, where permitted. And I will make that a true choice by ensuring there are good options available to all.

Should I be elected President, I’ll lead as I did when I was governor. I am pleased today to be joined today by Reverend Jeffrey Brown, who was a member of my kitchen cabinet in Massachusetts that helped guide my policy and actions that affected the African American community. I will look for support wherever there is good will and shared conviction. I will work with you to help our children attend better schools and help our economy create good jobs with better wages.

I can’t promise that you and I will agree on every issue. But I do promise that your hospitality to me today will be returned. We will know one another, and work to common purposes. I will seek your counsel. And if I am elected president, and you invite me to next year’s convention, I would count it as a privilege, and my answer will be yes.

The Republican Party’s record, by the measures you rightly apply, is not perfect. Any party that claims a perfect record doesn’t know history the way you know it.

Yet always, in both parties, there have been men and women of integrity, decency, and humility who called injustice by its name. For every one of us a particular person comes to mind, someone who set a standard of conduct and made us better by their example. For me, that man is my father, George Romney.

It wasn’t just that my Dad helped write the civil rights provision for the Michigan Constitution, though he did. It wasn’t just that he helped create Michigan’s first civil rights commission, or that as governor he marched for civil rights in Detroit – though he did those things, too.

More than these public acts, it was the kind of man he was, and the way he dealt with every person, black or white. He was a man of the fairest instincts, and a man of faith who knew that every person was a child of God.

I’m grateful to him for so many things, and above all for the knowledge of God, whose ways are not always our ways, but whose justice is certain and whose mercy endures forever.

Every good cause on this earth relies in the end on a plan bigger than ours. “Without dependence on God,” as Dr. King said, “our efforts turn to ashes and our sunrises into darkest night. Unless his spirit pervades our lives, we find only what G. K. Chesterton called ‘cures that don’t cure, blessings that don’t bless, and solutions that don’t solve.’”

Of all that you bring to the work of today’s civil rights cause, no advantage counts for more than this abiding confidence in the name above every name. Against cruelty, arrogance, and all the foolishness of man, this spirit has carried the NAACP to many victories. More still are up ahead, and with each one we will be a better nation.

Thank you, and God bless you all.

Gov. Scott: Raising the Public Education Bar Works

Governor Rick Scott issued a statement today on Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test grades for Elementary and Middle Schools. Test standards were raised by the Florida legislature and student grades fell significantly.

Commissioner of Education Gerard Robinson said in announcing the school grades, “This has been a year of tremendous change for Florida’s students, teachers and schools. The high standards we have in place today will help our students prepare for college, the workforce and life.” Robinson added that he was “confident we are on the right path.”

Governor Scott noted, “Florida is raising education standards because we know from past experience that students and teachers consistently rise to occasion when challenged. In just two years, Florida will move to a new testing standard that significantly reduces our reliance on the FCAT and moves to Common Core State Standards. This new system will allow us to compare our students with those in other states so that we can benchmark results, measure progress, and adjust curriculum to better prepare students for college and the workforce, so that they are better able to compete in the global marketplace.”

Governor Scott states, “As part of our ongoing accountability efforts, we’re constantly reviewing the level of and kinds of testing occurring in our classrooms. Our goal is to make sure we’re not testing for testing’s sake, but working to ensure our students are prepared for college and the workforce. Common Core assessments are an example of that kind of tool.”

“It is never easy to raise the standards for excellence in education. This year is no exception. But every time we raise the expectations of our students and teachers, they ultimately get better in later years. Simply put, raising the bar works,” Governor Scott said.

The Florida Board of Education voted to lower the school passing scores for the 2012 tests. This led to many saying lowering of the public education bar is harmful to future student achievement. According to Dave Weber of the Orlando Sentinel:

“Statewide, 46 elementary and middle schools earned Fs, compared to 32 last year, and 238 earned Ds, more than doubling last year’s 117. The totals of As, Bs and Cs slipped, too, with A schools showing a marked slip from 1,480 statewide last year to 1,112 this year.

To cushion the blow, the State Board of Education agreed several months ago that no school would be dropped more than one letter grade from last year’s score, regardless of how its students performed. That likely has saved some schools from slipping to Ds or Fs.”