Now Prez Racking Up Pinocchios

I previously posted that Education Secretary Arne Duncan got Four Pinocchios (the maximum) from Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s fact checker, for making false claims about teachers losing their jobs because of the sequester.

Now the President himself is getting the dubious award for saying this:

“Starting tomorrow everybody here, all the folks who are cleaning the floors at the Capitol.  Now that Congress has left, somebody’s going to be vacuuming and cleaning those floors and throwing out the garbage. They’re going to have less pay. The janitors, the security guards, they just got a pay cut, and they’ve got to figure out how to manage that. That’s real.”

The superintendent of the Capitol told Kessler that’s simply not true.

If the Administration continues to exaggerate the effects of the sequester, they are going to lose their political advantage over the GOP with voters.  People don’t like being lied to.

Also, the Dems can’t vote against (and Obama can’t threaten to veto) giving the President more flexibility to allocate the spending cuts, and then complain about how arbitrary and mindless the cuts are.

The President and the Dems need public pressure to get the GOP to relent on revenue.  But you don’t get that by making things up, you just lose credibility.

WaPo Calls BS on Phony Sequester Hype

The fact checker at the Washington Post, Glenn Kessler, has given Four Pinocchios to Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s claim that as many as 40,000 teachers could lose their jobs and some are already getting pink slips because of the sequester.

If the Administration isn’t more careful — and honest — they are going to lose their political advantage here over the GOP and the sequester really could blow up in the President’s face.

If people are getting fed up with the Government That Cried Wolf, they’re not going to take to President Chicken Little.

Go Ahead and Fly in March

You won’t have to wait longer in line because there will be as many TSA agents on duty.  The sequester begins on March 1, union rules require that federal workers get 30 days’ notice of furloughs, so nobody gets furloughed until April.

And the GOP plan for the continuing resolution to keep the government open that needs to happen by March 27 is to give department heads flexibility to deal with the cuts — so they can cancel conferences rather than furlough employees.

And that talk about teachers getting laid off?  It can’t happen until the next school year because this school year has already been funded, and I’m betting next year will be too.

This isn’t a crisis, this is a lot of BS.   The cuts are small, too small to send us back into recession, and once you give managers discretion over exactly where to cut, instead of forcing mindless across-the-board cuts, the main argument against the sequester disappears.


Our Kids Deserve Better, Our Country Needs Better

From “The Real Problems In Schools,” Nicholas Kristof, NYT:

The most important civil rights battleground today is education, and, likewise, the most crucial struggle against poverty is the one fought in school

Inner-city urban schools today echo the “separate but equal” system of the early 1950s. In the Chicago public schools where teachers are now on strike, 86 percent of children are black or Hispanic, and 87 percent come from low-income families.

Chicago’s high school graduation rates have been improving but are still about 60 percent. Just 3 percent of black boys in the ninth grade end up earning a degree from a four-year college…

In fairness, it’s true that the main reason inner-city schools do poorly isn’t teachers’ unions, but poverty.

Still, some Chicago teachers seem to think that they shouldn’t be held accountable until poverty is solved. There are steps we can take that would make some difference, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel is trying some of them — yet the union is resisting.

I’d be sympathetic if the union focused solely on higher compensation. Teachers need to be much better paid to attract the best college graduates to the nation’s worst schools. But, instead, the Chicago union seems to be using its political capital primarily to protect weak performers.

There’s now solid evidence that there are huge differences in the effectiveness of teachers, even within high-poverty schools.

How does one figure out who is a weak teacher? Yes, that’s a challenge. But researchers are improving systems to measure “value added” from beginning to end of the year, and, with three years of data, it’s usually possible to tell which teachers are failing.

Unfortunately, the union is insisting that teachers who are laid off — often for being ineffective — should get priority in new hiring. That’s an insult to students.

Teaching is so important that it should be like other professions, with high pay and good working conditions but few job protections for bottom performers.

This isn’t a battle between garment workers and greedy corporate barons. The central figures in the Chicago schools strike are neither strikers nor managers but 350,000 children. Protecting elements of a broken and unaccountable school system — the union demand — sacrifices those students, in effect turning a blind eye to a “separate but equal” education system.

Emphasis added.

The GOP Keeps Unemployment High

We hear so much about jobs being outsourced.  But the job losses that are really dragging down our economy right now are public sector jobs (teacher, firefighters, police officers, etc.) that can’t be outsourced.  We’ve lost more than 600,000 of these jobs in the last three years, mostly in states controlled by Republicans.  If these jobs still existed, unemployment would be about 7%.

If you have a problem with your credit card bill, you can get help from a guy in India.  If your house is burning down, not so much.

The GOP is attacking President Obama for not reducing unemployment enough, but we’ve gained back all the private sector jobs that were lost in the Great Recession.  It’s the GOP, using their power at the state and local levels to fire people, and using their power at the federal level to block more stimulus in the form of direct aid to states to retain those teachers and firefighters, that is keeping unemployment high.