Sunday, June 28, 2009


I didn't mean to go so long without posting, but I've been busy recently and it's taken a while to sort out what I wanted to write about next. Firstly, today is my parents' anniversary--40 years! I'm thankful to have had both of them setting such a great example for me to follow.

Now to the main topic of the post.

Some people just love to meddle. There are those who take charge because someone needs to, and then there are those who taken charge because they need to. The boss is the one in charge; someone who is bossy acts like he's in charge. A lot of meddlesome people go into politics, because it's a venue for them to act like they are in control.

Sometimes people meddle with the best of intentions; this does not mean that their meddling is good. I'd use the No Child Left Behind act as a good example. The purpose was a laudable one: a federally-funded system to improve academic achievement across the board. More money would be pumped into public school systems than ever before, incentives would be given for better performance, regular testing would be mandatory. I was a teacher once upon a time, and I witnessed some of the resulting problems. Part of the problem was that many teachers are not well-trained at the college level, and NCLB did not do much to change that. Another part of the problem was that schools dropped some programs, especially those in the arts, to focus on the math and science areas that were emphasized by NCLB. Given that many students flourish in the arts, and that developing skills in the visual, dramatic, and musical arts enhances performance in the more rigid "academic" disciplines, the greater focus in a few areas did not necessarily result in better comprehension in those areas. Perhaps the biggest problem was the greater importance of testing--students had to pass major exams to move on to the next level, and schools needed to have large percentages making certain test scores. Thus, schools began teaching to the test rather than teaching in the manner that best allowed the teachers and students to progress properly through the material.

Again, I'm not faulting the intent of NCLB; I'm faulting the fact that it resulted in a forced system of education that eventually prohibited the improvement that it was supposed to foster. Lots of people who work in education complain about the extra burdens that NCLB has placed on school systems. Many who lean toward the Democratic Party blame former President George W. Bush because he was a strong advocate of the NCLB bill, though they conveniently forget that the bill was co-sponsored by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA). In my mind, both parties deserve the blame because both parties were responsible for drafting and then passing a bill that, in hindsight, wasn't very good.

Now, let's look at what's been going on in recent weeks.

This past Friday (June 26, 2009) the House of Representatives passed HR 2454, aka the Waxman-Markey bill, aka the Cap-and-Trade bill. The bill passed by seven votes, with eight of those votes coming from Republicans and the rest from Democrats. The purpose of the bill is to encourage businesses to reduce emissions from carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses by taxing those who produce those gasses beyond a certain amount. Businesses that produce less than the cap amount will be allowed to sell credits to other companies that exceed them, so there is an incentive to reduce as much as possible. Of course, some businesses do not have the technology or budget to reduce their emissions. In many cases the technology may not exist now, or ever. Remember, every time you exhale you produce carbon dioxide, so there is the potential that at some point in time you individually will contribute more than your fair share, and the government will have the power to tax you for it. The point being, the cost of doing business will go up. After all, even if a company can reduce emissions for making a product, they still have to package, ship, and market it. The cost of producing gasoline will almost certainly go up, so the cost of shipping will also go up. Anything you buy that is shipped from point A to point B will thus be increased in price. (NOTE: almost everything you buy has to be shipped, and if it involves components that come from overseas, that will mean far more expensive costs for transporting it, whether by sea or air.) The increased price of doing business (without providing any increase in business profits) means business will have to lay off workers. This will create a drain on unemployment benefits, as well as reducing profits even further since the unemployed generally do not buy as many luxury items. Many companies will move their operations overseas to other nations that are not required to comply with the restrictions imposed by the US Congress. Regardless of how well-intentioned this bill is, the eventual result could be disastrous for our economy. Remember, the members of Congress are largely not business owners, nor are they scientists who understand the nuances of engineering more environmentally-friendly systems, nor are they climatologists who understand the extremely complex machine that is our planetary ecosystem. An environment with so many interconnected variables does not fall in line simply because lawmakers say it is supposed to.

Surely the House members know all the details of this bill, right? At around 3 am Friday morning, a 300-page amendment was added to the bill. The bill was already around 1,000 pages before the amendment. You no doubt are aware how long it takes to read a 1,000-page novel. (NOTE: most novels are written so as to be somewhat easy and interesting to read; Congressional resolutions tend to be much more detailed and and dryly descriptive. One does not breeze through them in a couple of days like many do for a Harry Potter novel.) How many Representatives, who have to deal with their personal lives, sleep, eating, listening to messages from their constituents (after all, that is why they're representatives, right???), and the particulars of doing Congressional business have time to read a 300-page amendment the same day that they vote on a 1,000-page bill?

That's right...they just passed a massive resolution that is intended to fundamentally alter forever the way business operates in this country, and it is a statistical certainty that NONE of them knows all the details of that resolution. Notice how I haven't even tried to address the numerous studies that show that this bill won't actually make much of a measurable difference in the environment, which is supposed to be the whole point of passing it in the first place.

Are you scared yet? Because your health care is next on the agenda. Remember how well NCLB worked? Sen. Kennedy is the major sponsor for health care reform. (Just so you know.)

Why should we worry? People who meddle always have the best intentions...right?

P.S. The Cap-and-Trade bill is not law, because it must now pass the Senate before it can be signed by the President. If you have issues with this legislation, now is the time to contact your Senators (remember, there are always two!) about it.

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