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Chris Prandoni

After DC lost Michelle Rhee, Waiting for Superman is a Welcomed Pick-Me-Up


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Friday, October 8th, 2010, 3:38 PM PERMALINK


Having spent most of my life living in or around DC, I’ve been socialized to know that DC public schools, well, they suck. At age eleven, with tears in my eyes, I asked my parents why were moving from DC to a nearby Maryland suburb. They consoled me coolly explaining that, “the schools are much better. I know it’s tough, but in the long run, you’ll thank us.” Wandering around my parent’s dinner parties, I’d overhear adults tell each other how they would fix DC’s broken public schools. I’d listen to local newscasters rattle off statistics that condemn DC’s youth. I’d catch a glimpse of my dad’s newspaper which chastised the amorphous DC establishment.

Residents of DC, unknowingly, have come to accept its unacceptable schools. Just like the sun will rise, DC will have bad schools.  We’ve become desensitized by politicians that make promises they never keep and set goals they never reach. But who can blame us, we don’t know anything different. I suspect lifelong residents of most major cities have similar tacit beliefs about the public school system.  

After years of frustration induced apathy, Mayor Fenty and Michelle Rhee burst onto the scene. An irreverent School Chancellor Rhee invigorated a city that had been lulled to sleep. People loved her, and people hated her. She immediately became the most divisive figure in DC firing objectively bad teachers and the principals that protected them. She closed down failing schools. In doing so, she stirred up the hornets nest; she affronted the teachers’ union. Rhee was cleaning house so that children could get the education they deserved.

Teachers’ unions exist to protect their dues paying members; the quality of education children receive is not of their concern. It is important to differentiate between the union, which inhibits reform at every turn, and teachers who are part of the union. Teachers are incredible public servants who, for the most part, care deeply about the children they feel compelled to educate. Conversely, unions refuse to make any meaningful concessions lest they lose clout. Rhee picked a fight with the neighborhood bully.   

After only three years in office, Rhee’s reforms were working; DC’s test scores were rising faster than test scores of any other large metropolitan area. Rhee knew that the reforms she implemented would be her downfall, that the unions would run her out of town. And they did. Union-backed Mayoral candidate Vincent Gray trounced Adrian Fenty, and subsequently Michelle Rhee, in the Democratic primary this year. It seemed the establishment had won, that unions controlled the system.

Back to the status quo, the sun will rise and DC will have bad schools. But maybe, the night is darkest before the dawn, a sentiment believed by Davis Guggenheim. Guggenheim, who directed Al Gore’s an Inconvenient Truth, set his sights upon America’s public schools in his new film, Waiting for Superman. Not only does he walk the audience through the problems inherent in our school system, but he personalizes abstract dropout statistics. The film follows a handful of academically engaged, adorable children who are on track to attend America’s “drop-out factories,” schools where nearly every student is destined to fail.

Waiting for Superman puts faces to the millions of dropouts every year. It is enraging to think that children who attend these schools never really have a chance. Guggenheim’s refrain is that everyone in America is supposed to have a shot; if you work hard enough you’ll succeed. Unfortunately, this comforting axiom could not be farther from the truth—children who are unlucky enough to be born in areas with bad schools will be crippled for life.

Waiting for Superman has the possibility to change the current debate, and it is already succeeding. Everyone and their mother is publishing op-eds about school reform. My lefty friends are beginning to rethink teachers unions and their role in propping up a failing system. After Michelle Rhee’s departure, everyone engaged in the education debate pick-me-up. Thank heaven for Waiting for Superman.

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Proposed Energy Taxes Would Result in the Loss of 150,000 Jobs


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Tuesday, September 21st, 2010, 4:37 PM PERMALINK


A new study warns that President Obama’s proposed energy taxes would impel job loss, reduce economic activity, and deprive states of much needed tax revenue. Examining the economic impact a repeal of Section 199 and a rewriting of dual-capacity tax law for oil and natural gas producers would have on the economy, Dr. Joseph R. Mason reveals how imprudent these proposals are.  

Published by the American Energy Alliance, Dr. Mason finds that repealing these tax deductions—which are enjoyed by every domestic company—only for energy producers would result in:

  • The loss of over 150,000 jobs across the country by the end of 2011
  • The loss of 56,000 jobs, and $24 billion in wages, to the Gulf community
  • A loss of $68 billion dollars in wages nationwide
  • The loss of $18 billion in local government revenue
  • The loss of $65 billion in federal revenue
  • $341 billion dollars in reduced U.S. economic activity between 2011 and 2020

It is important to note that these tax hikes—and subsequent economic repercussions—have been proposed in the Presidential FY 2011 Budget and used as “pay-fors” by Democrats in numerous pieces of legislation.

Click here to read the full press release.

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1099 Skirmishes Indicative of Party Ideologies


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Friday, September 17th, 2010, 4:30 PM PERMALINK


Upon returning from recess, the Senate was captivated by two amendments to the small business lending bill. Passions flared not only because of the punitive impact each amendment would have, but because the legislation each side advocated for exemplified the ideological differences between Republicans and Democrats.

This proxy war was fought over the 1099 reporting requirements for small businesses that the Patient Protection and Affordability Care Act radically increases. While both Democrats and Republicans agree that 1099 reporting for all small businesses are unnecessary and burdensome, they have offered different remedies.

Representing the Democratic camp, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) proposed a tax hike on America’s five largest oil and natural gas producers. Sen. Nelson would use the newly garnered revenue to exempt some small businesses from 1099 reporting.

In the GOP corner, Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) offered an amendment that eliminates the reporting requirements for all small businesses. To plug the fiscal hole created by exempting small businesses from onerous 1099 reporting, Sen. Johanns wants to cut $15 billion in government spending.

While neither amendment received enough support to pass, they are indicative of the ongoing debate between Republicans and Democrats. A rejuvenated Republican Party has pledged to cut spending and reduce the size and scope of government. The Democratic Party, seemingly incapable of trimming America’s $3.7 trillion annual budget, looks to tax America’s most productive businesses to pay for its policies.

Click here to read the full article.

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Senator Bill Nelson Proposes Job Killing Energy Tax Hike


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Monday, September 13th, 2010, 5:46 PM PERMALINK


[PDF Document]

Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) introduced amendment SA. 4595 to the Small Business Lending Act which would raise taxes on America’s energy companies and result in extensive job loss and reduced economic activity.

Sen. Nelson introduced SA 4595 to remedy the burdensome 1099 reporting requirements imposed on small businesses by the Patient Protection and Affordability Care Act. To fund exemptions for some small businesses, Sen. Nelson’s amendment repeals the Section 199 manufacturing deduction for the nation’s leading oil and natural gas companies. Enacted in 2004 to foster domestic job creation and economic growth, Section 199 allows all American companies to deduct a portion of their income derived from domestic production and manufacturing activities.

Repealing this job creating tax rule for just oil and natural gas producers is an effective tax increase on an industry that indirectly or directly employs over 9 million workers and adds over a trillion dollars to the American economy.

“The last thing our economy needs is a punitive tax upon its energy infrastructure and its nation’s largest employers. The Nelson amendment will only exacerbate our economic woes by hamstringing growth and slowing job creation,” said Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform.

Also looking to address the onerous 1099 reporting requirement, Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) has introduced amendment SA 4596 which would exempt every small business from the health care bill’s 1099 mandate. Differentiating itself from Sen. Nelson’s amendment, Sen. Johanns’ proposal funds the 1099 exemption through reductions in future spending rather than taxing energy producers.

“The Senate has every reason to exempt the nation’s small business from unnecessary federal regulations, but there’s no reason we should have to rob Peter to pay Paul. Senator Nelson’s proposal simply shifts economic damages from small businesses to America’s oil and natural gas producers,” said Norquist.

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Norquist Urges Senators to Support Sen. Johanns' Amendment, SA 4596, During Small Business Vote


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Monday, September 13th, 2010, 2:53 PM PERMALINK


After digesting the 2,000 page health care bill, legislators and pundits realized it contained numerous problematic provisions, specifically, the 1099 reporting requirements for small businesses.

Tomorrow the Senate looks to remedy this oversight by passing one of two amendments, SA 4596, proposed by Senator Johanns (R-Neb), or SA 4595, proposed by Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).  

Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist sent a letter to the Hill urging Members to support Senator Johanns’ proposal and oppose Senator Bill Nelson’s.

Here’s why:

While both amendments look to remedy the burdensome 1099 reporting requirements imposed on small businesses by the Patient Protection and Affordability Care Act, they achieve this goal in markedly different ways.

To fund exemptions for some small businesses, Senator Nelson’s amendment repeals the Section 199 manufacturing deduction for the nation’s leading oil and natural gas companies. Enacted in 2004 to foster domestic job creation and economic growth, Section 199 allows American companies to deduct a portion of their income derived from domestic production and manufacturing activities. Repealing this job creating tax rule is an effective tax increase on an industry that indirectly or directly employs over 9 million workers and adds over a trillion dollars to the American economy.

Conversely, Senator Johanns’ proposed amendment reduces government spending by cutting unnecessary programs and uses the savings garnered to exempt small businesses from the onerous 1099 reporting requirements.

Click here to read the full letter.

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Flush With Union Cash, DC Mayoral Candidate Vincent Gray Looks to Roll Back DC School Reform


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Sunday, September 5th, 2010, 6:26 PM PERMALINK


The fight for the Democratic mayoral nominee in Washington DC encapsulates the national struggle for education reform. On one side you have Mayor Adrian Fenty and his appointed School Chancellor Michelle Rhee, true reforms who took on the teachers unions in hopes of improving DC’s schools.

On the other side you have Fenty’s primary opponent, Vincent Gray. Gray is your typical big city politician. He ran a dirty campaign that mischaracterized and demonized Fenty’s term, he’s owned by special interest groups (see teachers unions), and will only pay lip service to reform, something DC desperately needs.

For decades, Washington DC’s public schools were the laughingstock of the country, consistently ranking near the bottom in every education metric. Fed-up with the status quo, Fenty appointed Michelle Rhee as Chancellor of Washington’s schools giving her free rein to battle the self-serving teachers unions and implement reforms she deemed essential.  So, did it work? How does DC’s education system compare to other cities, now?

A new study by AEI’s Rick Hess
examines “which of thirty major U.S. cities have cultivated a healthy environment for school reform to flourish.” Hess found that DC’s education environment now ranks second in a study of major US cities, largely due to Mayor Fenty and Michelle Rhee’s reforms.

Reform is painful; Fenty bruised some egos in the process making a lot of powerful enemies. Hess writes, “Survey respondents report that Mayor Adrian Fenty is the only municipal leader willing to expend extensive political capital to advance education reform.”

Gray has capitalized on union antipathy towards Fenty and formed alliances with DC’s biggest labor unions, receiving endorsements from:

AFSCME, AFGE, AFL-CIO Washington Labor Council, Carpenter's Union, Fraternal Order of Police, Fraternal Order of Police-Department of Corrections, Fraternal Order of Police District of Columbia Lodge #1, Firefighters Local 36, Gertrude Stein Club, , National Association of Government Employees, National Association of Social Workers, Nurses Union, Teamsters Local Union 639, Teamsters Local 689.”

No wonder Fenty is trailing in the polls, all of DC’s power players have united against the mayor. Most depressing is that Michelle Rhee announced she would leave if Gray is elected; their views are incompatible--Rhee is focused on giving DC’s poorest students chance to succeed, Gray is concerned with protecting teachers unions.

Carried across the finish line by union money, Gray’s election could well nullify the education gains Fenty and Rhee made over the past three years--the last thing DC needs.

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Harry Reid Looks to Resurrect RES During Lame-Duck


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Thursday, September 2nd, 2010, 11:22 AM PERMALINK


Harry Reid (D-Nev.) made news Tuesday when he announced that he would try to pass an energy bill during the lame-duck session. This comes as a surprise to most as Reid pulled his energy bill right before recess began as he couldn’t muster up the requisite votes. Even more surprising is that Reid said a key component of his lame-duck bill would be a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), a contentions policy amongst Members.

RES requires that a percentage of a state’s energy production be derived from “clean” energy sources, generally understood as wind and solar. Government imposed RES are necessary because wind and solar are not economically viable, they need government subsidies and mandates to compete with cheaper forms of energy.

While some think this is a political move to drum up support from the environmental lobby--Mr. Reid is currently involved in a heated primary debate with Republican Sharron Angle—let’s take Reid at his word. What are the economic implications for a national RES?

Heritage Foundation scholars crunched the numbers and found that instituting a 35 percent RES by 2035 America would loose 1,000,000 jobs.

Don’t take their word for it; look at Europe. In Spain, government subsidies for the wind and solar industry prevent 2.2 jobs from being created in the private sector and have contributed to the country's high unemployment levels.

Domestically, the DeSoto Solar Center in Florida was supposed to be the “largest solar power plant in the United States,” according to President Obama. The Center received $150 million from the Recovery Act. After using 400 construction workers to build the site, the Solar Center now employs only two people. So while the transition to new energy sources creates jobs, many of them are temporary, a distinction many on the left fail to make.

With unemployment already hovering around 10 percent, the last thing we need is from soon-to-be jobless Senators is an unnecessary energy bill. Implementing an RES during the lame-duck is bad policy, undemocratic, and appallingly arrogant.

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Rally for Jobs Kicks Off Today in Texas


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Wednesday, September 1st, 2010, 11:18 AM PERMALINK


Since coming into office, the Obama Administration has taken an antagonistic stance against America’s oil and natural gas producers--energy sources that power our country-- barring exploration along most of our coastline and threatening to levy job-killing tax increases.

In an attempt to push back against this anti-growth agenda, the American Petroleum Institute has organized nationwide Rallies for Jobs throughout the month of September--the first of which are held today in Texas.

The message of these rallies is clear: higher taxes mean fewer jobs.

Responsible for more than 9.2 million well-paying jobs across the country, oil and natural gas production is one of America’s biggest industries. Furthermore, this industry is already taxed at an exorbitant rate: the effective tax rate for oil and natural gas companies in 2009 was 48 percent compared to 28 percent for the rest of Standard and Poor’s industries.

The taxes being floated by the Obama administration would undoubtedly result in job loss. With the unemployment rate already hovering around 10 percent, further taxing America’s energy producers would be imprudent and irresponsible.

If you cannot make it to the Texas rallies today, you can view them and forthcoming rallies at http://energynation.org/.

Below is a list of the subsequent rallies across the country, I hope you will be able to join the thousands of Americans uniting to rebuke the job-killing policies coming out of Washington.

Sept. 1    11 a.m.   George R. Brown Convention Center Houston, TX
Sept. 1    11 a.m. American Bank Center Convention Center Corpus Christ, TX
Sept. 1  11 a.m Port Arthur Civic Center  Port Arthur, TX
Sept. 7   12 noon  Canton Memorial Civic Center Canton, Ohio
Sept. 8 11 a.m. McGee Park    Farmington, NM
Sept. 8        11 a.m. Pipefitters Training Center              Mokena, IL (Joliet)
Sept. 10     11 a.m. Two Rivers Convention Centrer  Grand Junction, CO

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Spill Commission Should Lift Moratorium Which Has Cost Gulf Residents 12,000 Jobs and $2.1 Billion


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Thursday, August 26th, 2010, 4:54 PM PERMALINK


With the spill off the Gulf largely contained, the Administration has launched a commission to investigate the root cause of the tragedy. Now that the heated emotions surrounding the spill are beginning to subside, the presidential commission has an enormous opportunity to objectively access the failures that led up to the spill—and just as importantly—to chart a sustainable, cheap, and safe course for America’s energy production.

Given the Administration’s antagonistic track record with America’s oil and natural gas producers, many Republican Members looked at the commission with weary eyes.

Addressing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Senator Barrasso (R-Wyo) highlighted many of these concerns:

“The president said he wanted an objective look. Well the commission’s background and expertise doesn’t really include an oil or a drilling expert, so people in the Gulf, people across the country are wondering about the administration’s goals. Is it really about making offshore energy exploration safer, or is it shutting down our offshore and American oil and gas.”

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration’s actions, thus far, can only lead to Senator Barrasso’s conclusion: the commission is about shutting down offshore production, not making it safer.  

After imposing a moratorium on deep water production—despite the impeccable track record of nearly every energy explorer, except BP—the administration went even further and imposed a de facto moratorium on shallower waters. By revoking or halting the permitting process for shallow water production (including exploration in Alaska’s waters), the Administration successfully impeded all offshore oil and natural gas production. But at what cost?

A study by Joseph R. Mason of Louisiana State University found that the current 6 month moratorium will cost 12,000 American jobs and $2.1 billion lost economic activity:

The moratorium only exacerbates the woes those in the Gulf face. The commission would be wise to alleviate the government-induced economic problems and allow for continued, safe production.

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Unions plan on spending big this election cycle


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Thursday, August 26th, 2010, 1:26 PM PERMALINK


[PDF Document]

The AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) recently announced that they will spend a combined $88 million during this year’s election cycle. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) plans to spend about $50 million.

Organized labor’s enormous war chests are largely derived from member dues—money that is deducted from workers’ paychecks and sent directly to the “representing” union. While some states have enacted paycheck protection laws that allow a worker to decide whether or not his dues are used for political purposes, a majority of states give workers no choice in how their dues are spent.

The following figures illustrate labor’s donations during this year’s election cycle:

Nine out of the top ten PACs that contributed to Democratic candidates are run by labor unions

Labor Union Political Action Committee Amount Contributed
Intl Brotherhood of Electrical Workers $2,323,373   
Operating Engineers Union $1,879,300
American Fedn of St/Cnty/Munic Employees  $1,749,000  
Teamsters Union  $1,588,910 
Laborers Union $1,582,500      
Machinists/Aerospace Workers Union $1,527,500  
American Federation of Teachers $1,482,250  
Plumbers/Pipefitters Union $1,389,975   
International Assn of Fire Fighters $1,355,500    

 Four out of the top five organizations giving money to all 527s are labor unions

Organization Recipient
Service Employees International Union $10,764,321  
United Food & Commercial Workers Union  $3,562,014   
American Fedn of St/Cnty/Munic Employees   $2,382,873
Operating Engineers Union $2,196,245    


 

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