Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Wavering Waiver Presidency

We are in a Wavering Waiver Presidency.  We may have been promised hope and change but what we have seen are a lot of wavering and waivers from this President's Administration.

It started almost from the beginning.  President Obama waived his opportunity to develop his own stimulus plan right after he took office and outsourced it to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.  Instead of getting a stimulus package that might spur economic growth and create jobs, we got almost $1 trillion of bailouts of states, unions and paybacks to Democratic special interest groups.  The result-an explosion of debt and unemployment that is higher today than when the stimulus passed.  We also have nothing tangible to show for it other than the debt and the interest that will have to be paid on it for years into the future.

He did the same thing with his health care reform package.  We never saw an Obama plan.  He outsourced that to the Congress.  To get it passed they also waived the normal legislative rules to avoid the Senate filibuster rules.  The result-a health care law that was passed without any Republican votes and which poll data still indicates the majority of Americans would like repealed.

Once the law was passed, however, the Obama administration started issuing waivers to the law they passed as unions and businesses complained of its onerous provisions.  Provisions that would actually reduce health care coverage rather than expand it as President Obama promised.   More than 1,400 waivers were requested.  The Administration granted over 95% of them until it announced recently it would not grant any more in the wake of continuing negative PR about the waivers.

Shortly after taking office, President Obama appointed a bi-partisan debt commission (the Simpson-Bowles Committee) that was charged with recommending steps to deal with our structural budget deficits and entitlement spending problems.  What did President Obama do with the recommendations?  Nothing.  He did not even adopt a few of them.  He waived responsibility again.  The result-we have now ended up with the first debt downgrade in the history of the United States from AAA status.  Bear in mind that this AAA status held up through World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, double digit inflation and 20% interest rates.   Our AAA rating could not withstand a wavering waiver President.

Throughout the entire debt ceiling limit discussions we never once heard President Obama articulate a plan.  He wavered.  He waived any responsibility to lead.  In the end, it was Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority Reid who had to put a deal together at the last minute.

Of course, almost 3 years into this Presidency it is impossible to find anything this Administration is willing to take responsibility for.  They continue to waive responsibility for everything.  Unemployment-Bush's fault.  The federal debt-Bush.  The debt ceiling limit-Republicans and The Tea Party.  The debt downgrade-The Tea Party. The budget deficit-corporate jets and rich people not paying enough in taxes. The slowing economy-The Japanese Tsunami, the Arab spring and high oil prices.

The Wavering Waiver Presidency is on the waiver trail again today. It seems that the "No Child Left Behind" law that was passed in 2001 (co-sponsored by John Boehner and Teddy Kennedy) with wide bi-partisan support with tallies of 384-45 in the House and 91-8 in the Senate set testing standards that were too tough.  This article provides the background.

The goal of the law was to have every student proficient in math and reading by 2014.  This was to be accomplished by requiring states to bring more students up to the math and reading standards each year based on student testing.  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has warned that 82 percent of U.S. schools could be labeled failures next year if No Child Left Behind is not changed.

The step-by-step ramping up of the 9-year-old law has caused heartburn in states and most school districts, because more and more schools are labeled as failures as too few of their students meet testing goals.
Critics say the benchmarks are unrealistic and brands schools as failures even if they make progress. Schools and districts where too few kids pass the tests for several years are subject to sanctions that can include firing teachers or closing the school entirely.
What is going on here?   A law that was passed in 2001 by an overwhelming bi-partsian majority set a goal of having every student proficient in math and science by 2014.  Sounds like a reasonable plan. They gave 13 full years for schools to reach the goal.   In effect, schools had the entire school career of students entering kindergarten the year the law was passed to meet the goals established.  How much more reasonable can you be? It sounds as if schools are failing miserably in meeting the goals.  They now want waivers and the President is going to do it?  Is this for the benefit of the students or the teacher's unions?

If only dealing with our downgrade, deficit and entitlements were so easy.  If you don't like the result just give out waivers.

This is another reason why we need a Balanced Budget Amendment. Wavering and waivers seem to be a little too easy to come by when you are in Washington. Particularly when you are dealing with The Wavering Waiver Presidency of Barack Obama.

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