Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Keeping it red

  As we enter the dog days of summer, the race for president presses onward at a steady pace. It will be a close contest in the fall. Barack Obama won four years ago because of the economy and if he loses in November it will be due to the economy.

  It will not be a contest here in the Heart of Dixie. Obama heading the ticket will drive the final nail in the coffin of the Democratic Party in Alabama.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Adam Hersh: Conservatives undermining our economic recovery

  The latest weak economic growth numbers were as predictable as they are disheartening, and the blame lies squarely with those who opposed the president’s American Jobs Act nearly a year ago—and have in fact opposed an array of sensible economic policies to expand public investments that create jobs and economic growth ever since President Barack Obama took office.

  But first the “news.” The $15.6 trillion U.S. economy slowed in the three months through June 2012. U.S. gross domestic product, or GDP—the sum total of all goods and services produced by workers and equipment in the United States—grew at 1.5 percent in the second quarter of 2012. We are growing, but slowing. And this must renew policymakers’ urgency for action to prevent our economy from dipping further.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Michael Josephson: Authentic apology

  “I’m sorry.”

  These are powerful words. Authentic apologies can work like a healing ointment on old wounds, dissolve bitter grudges, and repair damaged relationships. They encourage both parties to let go of toxic emotions like anger and guilt and provide a fresh foundation of mutual respect.

  But authentic apologies involve much more than words expressing sorrow; they require accountability, remorse, and repentance.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Donna Cooper: Spree killings growing more frequent and more deadly

  With the death toll in the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooting rampage now at 12, with 58 wounded, many Americans are asking how future tragedies similar to this can be prevented. While the suspected gunman in this case appears to have purchased his guns legally, in America’s worst spree killing—the murder of 32 individuals and the wounding of 17 more on the Virginia Tech campus in 2007—the killer purchased a gun in spite of known mental health problems.

  It's too soon to know for sure if the accused killer in Aurora, who told police he was “The Joker” and appeared in court with his hair dyed a garish reddish orange looking dazed, has a history of mental illness. If so, he should have been prohibited from purchasing a gun under federal law. Still it must be emphatically pointed out that in America known dangerous individuals are able to purchase guns legally because of the failure of Congress and states to adopt clear and commonsense public safety measures that make it much more difficult and always illegal for people with a history of mental illness or drug abuse to purchase guns.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Charles C. Haynes: Under the First Amendment, religious freedom favors none, protects all

  Louisiana State Rep. Valarie Hodges used to be a big fan of school vouchers. “I liked the idea,” she explained, “of giving parents the option of sending their children to a public school or a Christian school.”

  Then last month Hodges got a First Amendment reality check when she discovered that Christian schools wouldn’t be the only religious schools getting tax dollars.

  “Unfortunately, it [vouchers] will not be limited to the Founders’ religion,” she said. “We need to ensure that it does not open the door to fund radical Islam schools. There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana.”

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Special election approaches

  As the long hot summer continues, several events have transpired that warrant mentioning. Several of you have asked if the September 18 constitutional referendum on borrowing money from the oil royalty trust fund is not approved will Gov. Bentley call a special session to address the gigantic void in the general fund budget. There will be a tremendous deficit in the budget between what is appropriated and the revenue that will be available. There will be a very short window to resolve the dilemma as the new 2013 fiscal year begins on October 1. Your guess is as good as mine. Gov. Bentley has repeatedly said that he will not call for any new revenue enhancement measures. You can also bet your bottom dollar that the legislature is not going to raise taxes, especially without the governor requesting such measures. They may just kick the can down the road and hope for the best.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Cameron Smith: If you built it, they paid for it

  President Obama recently noted that "[i]f you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own." But the President's argument did not stop with the assertion that economic success fundamentally requires paying customers. Instead, the President essentially argued that the successful person somehow "owes" the government for the fact that he or she makes a good living.

  For most businesses in America, making money is a fairly simple concept even if it is challenging to execute. In short, the business makes a product or provides a service that customers value more than the money in their pockets. As a result, the business profits and the customer receives something he or she values. But where is the government in that exchange?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Melissa Boteach: The Right embraces ‘Big Government’

  Conservatives consistently attack progressives as champions of “big government” who want to take power away from states and impose one-size-fits all solutions on people with different sets of needs. This is a canard, as the Obama administration has demonstrated in its Race-to-the-Top education reform, regional economic development, and most recently in welfare reform and nutrition assistance.

  In fact, the two most recent efforts to provide states with greater flexibility to move families from poverty to prosperity have been met by outrage and condemnation by the right. It seems that conservatives do believe that “big government” knows best so long as federal policy fits the conservative agenda. I call this the politics of “convenient federalism.”

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Ian M. MacIsaac: Great Recession hit homeowners, lower-middle class hardest while wealthy recovered quickly

  The gap between the rich and the poor in America continues to grow, according to a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) entitled "An Analysis of Distribution of Wealth Across Households, 1989-2010."

  A full half of Americans--150,000,000 people--possess only 1.1% of the total assets held by all Americans. The other, richer half of the population holds the other 98.9%.

  The United States has never had a wealth gap this large between its upper and lower classes, not even during the Gilded Age when Standard Oil and US Steel reigned terror over the country.

  According to the CRS's report, the three million Americans who make up the top one percent possess 34.5% of a pie that a full half of us own only 1.1% of.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Kia Smythe: Obama and Romney attack each other, but ignore the country’s fiscal trouble

  The presidential campaign has really started now, with scathing attacks from both the Democrat and Republican candidates against their opposition. Obama’s poor record is being slammed in his face by Romney, while Romney is under increasing pressure to come clean about his wealth and disclose tax returns he has previously denied to the American public. Both candidates seem focused on throwing as much dirt as they can at each other, but this means they are not paying attention to or trying to do anything about the serious problem that looks set to blow up in the face of whoever wins the election.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Bentley’s poll numbers and the approaching storm

  In a recent reliable poll Alabamians expressed overwhelming satisfaction with the job that our doctor governor is doing.

  The poll done by the Capital Survey Research Center revealed that a whopping two-thirds of Alabama voters approve of Gov. Robert Bentley’s job performance. When asked for their impression of Bentley, 63% of the surveyed voters reacted favorably to his performance, 20% were unfavorable and 17% were neutral or did not recognize the governor’s name.

  These are pretty good numbers for an incumbent governor one and a half years into his four year tenure in office. Such favorable approval ratings bode well for his reelection possibilities in 2014.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Cameron Smith: Obamacare options for Alabama

  As Alabama and the nation continue to process the Supreme Court's June 28th opinion on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), most of the talk has revolved around the preservation of the individual mandate, albeit in the Court's reformulation as a tax.

  But the Court's holding leaves Alabamians with two important decisions to make: Should the state expand Medicaid under the PPACA and should the state set up its own PPACA-compliant health insurance exchange?

  In the PPACA opinion, seven Justices placed a significant restriction on the coercive power of federal spending by striking down the ability of the federal government to condition all Medicaid funding on a state's willingness to expand Medicaid coverage under the PPACA. As a result, Alabamians are asked to balance expanding Medicaid to include an additional 351,000 to 456,000 citizens against the reality of scarcely being able to fund existing Medicaid obligations.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Ian M. MacIsaac: Former FBI Director's report on Penn State scandal shows evidence of cover-up by Paterno, others

  Multiple officials at Pennsylvania State University, including university president Graham Spanier and longtime coach Joe Paterno, exhibited "total disregard for the safety and welfare of... [the] child victims" of retired defensive coach and child rapist Jerry Sandusky, according to a report released on Thursday.

  Authored by former FBI director Louis Freeh, who spent the last seven months investigating the case on behalf of the Pennsylvania state attorney general's office, the report alleges serious misconduct by those in the university administration concerning their handling of the allegations, as early as 1998, that Sandusky was committing sexual acts against children in Penn State football facilities.

  The four men damned in the report--President Spanier, Coach Paterno, Spanier's Vice President Gary Schultz and Athletic Director Tim Curley--professed limited to nonexistent knowledge of Sandusky's indiscretions when the scandal blew up toward the end of last year.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sheldon Richman: Government shows itself impotent on economy

  It should finally have dawned on the American people that the politicians who presume to guide the economy have no bloody idea what they’re doing. We’re long past the time when knowledge of economics was required to see that the government is impotent when it comes to creating economic recovery. If you want evidence of that impotence, just look around.

  Governments are very good at creating recessions and at impeding recovery. That is the limit of their powers. If you expect something constructive, you’ll be disappointed. Politicians from President Obama on down will promise the moon, but they will deliver only worthless rocks. They will blame everything and everyone for their failures, but their inability to succeed has one source only: the political process — which is founded on force, not peaceful economic cooperation — is singularly inappropriate for creating prosperity.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Gadi Dechter: Call it a penalty, call it a fine, don’t call it a tax

  Having lost their Supreme Court fight against the Affordable Care Act, opponents of health care reform have in recent days been attacking the individual mandate provision of the law as a “tax” on the middle class. This line of reasoning only makes sense if you think penalties for littering, speeding, or engaging in other irresponsible behavior are also “taxes.”

  Yes, it’s true that conservative Chief Justice John Roberts used a tax rationale when upholding the constitutionality of the individual mandate—and the entire law—last week. But Roberts was making a technical argument and using the word “tax” in a way that really only makes sense in an arcane legal context.

  First, some background: The health care law’s so-called “individual mandate” provision requires people who can afford to buy health insurance to do so, and when it’s phased in, it will assess a penalty of up to 2.5 percent of household income on those who don’t. That’s only fair, since the health care costs of the uninsured are borne by the rest of us.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Is Rubio the ticket?

  Most of our modern presidents have been given two terms. The mindset of not changing horses mid-stream prevails. One of the glaring exceptions was the 1992 upset of George Bush, Sr. by Bill Clinton. It was the economy that caused Bush’s demise, not his underachievement. The economic state of the nation drives the vote of most Americans for the presidency.

  When Bill Clinton set sail to derail Bush’s quest for a second term it was well known that he had two pronounced problems. First of all, it was common knowledge in political circles that he had a bimbo problem. As Governor of Arkansas he allegedly had innumerable extramarital affairs. Most of these dalliances were with unsavory women who were likely to kiss and tell. His unbridled and insatiable sexual appetite was likely to continue as he moved into even greener pastures on the national campaign stage.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ian M. MacIsaac: Mitt's mysterious money: The growing controversy around Governor Romney's shadowy finances

  Mitt Romney loves his money. He loves it so much he does not want to pay taxes on it, keep it in the United States where it might be monitored by the IRS, or even allow the public to know how much of it he has (estimates hover around $250 million).

  He refused to release his tax returns during the 2008 campaign, and released them this time around only after being politically hammered into doing so by his fellow Republican candidates, namely Rick Santorum.

  And, despite having officially retired from the business world in 1999, Romney still makes a heaping pile: $42.5 million in income in 2010-2011, with taxes of only $6.2 million--below 15 percent taxation, just over half of the overall rate paid by the average American.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Kia Smythe: Online study and the loneliness of the long distance freshman

  The ever increasing availability and power of home computing and the internet means that 31% of all higher education students in the U.S. now take at least one course online. Whilst the growth rate for online enrollments may have recently slowed a little, it still far exceeds the growth of the overall higher education student population. These trends mean that 65% of all higher education institutes include online learning as a fundamental part of their long term strategies.

  Despite this, there is a vocal minority of academic leaders concerned that the quality of online instruction simply does not measure up to equivalent courses delivered face-to-face in traditional bricks-and-mortar colleges. Overall, academics’ opinions on the respective quality of learning outcomes from traditional versus online tuition appear to be rather subjective – influenced more by whether or not their particular institution offers online programs, rather than on any hard evidence of lower attainment or standards of the online cohort.

  The simple fact of the matter is that online tuition is both here to stay and will continue to expand; driven as much by economics as by any other single factor.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Back in '78

  Recently a good friend and reader asked me about one of Alabama’s most interesting governor’s races. The 1978 gubernatorial contest was truly one of the best. My friend was curious as to where all the players on the 1978 stage are today.

  The 1978 race was a classic upset contest. In fact, it may very well be one of the most epic and stunning surprise outcomes in the annals of Alabama political history.

  It was assumed that the iconic career of the legendary George Wallace was coming to an end as he was leaving the governor’s office that he had owned for close to two decades. He would prove the pundits wrong four years later when he came back for one last hurrah in 1982.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Gene Policinski: What was right about high court’s Montana ruling

  Amid the flap over what was supposedly wrong the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week to throw out Montana’s 100-year-old campaign-spending limits, can we take a moment to consider what was right about it?

  The Court held 5-4 that Montana may not continue to limit what corporations and unions may spend in support of or opposition to a political candidate. Some are calling the ruling “Citizen’s United 2,” in a nod to the landmark Citizens United v. FEC decision that dumped such limits for federal elections. That 2010 ruling said it was a violation of the First Amendment’s protection of free speech to restrict such spending.