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Liberals lack ideas

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Cal

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Left behind
Rich Tucker

March 11, 2005

In the Charlie Brown Christmas special, Lucy says, “As they say on TV, the mere fact that you realize you need help indicates that you are not too far gone.” So maybe there’s hope yet for the American left.

On Feb. 28, The New Republic magazine -- house organ of the liberal movement -- celebrated its 90th anniversary with an issue that included a Martin Peretz essay. “Ask yourself: Who is a truly influential liberal mind in our culture?” he asks. “There’s no one, really.” Peretz accurately describes modern liberalism as a “laundry list: The catalogue of programs (some dubious, some not) that Republicans aren’t funding.”

And that’s exactly the problem on the left today. A lack of ideas.

Of course, the simple fact that liberals realize they have a problem doesn’t mean they’re actually going to solve it. Like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown, this same issue of TNR includes a Jonathan Chait essay that gets reality exactly backward. He argues that conservatives are dogmatic, while liberals are pragmatic. “Liberalism has no justification other than the belief that liberal policies produce beneficial outcomes,” Chait claims.

Wrong. Consider education policy.

Virtually everyone agrees that our current education system isn’t working. For example, noted liberal Bill Gates recently warned lawmakers, “America’s high schools are obsolete. By obsolete, I don’t just mean . . . broken, flawed and underfunded. . . . I mean that our high schools -- even when they’re working exactly as designed -- cannot teach our kids what they need to know today.”

Conservatives have ideas about how to change the system. We favor the creation of charter schools and school vouchers that will allow children in failing schools to move to successful schools.

Now, this isn’t to claim that vouchers are a cure-all, that they will absolutely, positively work. However, where they’ve been tried they’ve been successful. Parents in Milwaukee and Cleveland, for example, strongly support the use of vouchers. The only reason vouchers haven’t enjoyed wider use is that liberals spent years attempting to block them through the courts.
In his piece, Peretz admits there isn’t a liberal solution. “Give me a single liberal idea with some currency, even a structural notion, for transforming the elucidation of knowledge and thinking to the young,” he writes. “You can’t.”

Liberals, because they’re owned and operated by the teachers unions, insist we can fix education by spending more money. Of course, we’ve been trying this for decades and it hasn’t worked. Professor Eric Hanushek of the University of Rochester looked at some 400 studies of student achievement and found that when family inputs are accounted for, there’s no consistent relationship between student performance and school resources. More spending isn’t an idea -- it’s the symptom of the lack of liberal ideas.

How about Social Security? The right favors personal retirement accounts. Conservatives want to allow younger workers to divert a portion of their payroll taxes into personal accounts they would own and control. It’s a way of using the free market to solve a looming long-term problem, while also expanding the American ownership society.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid says such a plan “isn’t really Social Security reform. It’s more like Social Security roulette.” Liberals want to fix Social Security, he insists, but not by allowing personal accounts or by cutting benefits.

Liberal strategist Harold Ickes admits the problems with that approach. “If the Democratic position is we can’t have private accounts but also can’t have an increase in the cap or the retirement age, that may be a difficult position to sustain,” he told The Washington Post. Democratic strategists Stan Greenberg and James Carville are even more blunt. Because liberals haven’t laid out a plan for reform, they “appear to lack direction, conviction, values, advocacy or a larger public purpose,” the pair wrote recently.

Indeed, they lack all those traits. Because they lack ideas.

Today’s liberals are no longer intellectuals. If anything, they’re post-intellectuals. They no longer seem to think it’s necessary to float ideas and propose solutions. They simply oppose the ideas and solutions proposed by the right.

Our country’s democracy would be healthier if liberals could come up with a real governing philosophy and take it to the voters. As a start, the left ought to present some plans to improve education and fix Social Security.

Conservatives are eager to lead. If the left won’t answer our challenge -- if they won’t lead by developing compelling ideas of their own -- they should at least follow, or get out of the way.
 

ez now

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Well Cal lets start where you said conservatives want to change the school system by favoring the creation of charter schools and school vouchers that will allow children in failing schools to move to successful schools.
I agree that the way the system is going , a parent will be able to choose to send their child to a high achieving school. I don't have a problem with that. The thing that I feel will happen with this, is that parents who care about education will be the ones that will take advantage of this. There children are the ones who were passing the tests in the school they were already attending. That of course will be fine with the schools that they want to move to because that will be more money for them.
On the other hand the students who are left behind are the ones who started school aready years behind these other students. They are behind in life experences, social skills, academics and language skills. These things and the problems that they are dealing with coming from an economically disadvantaged home are the big problem.
A charter school or a school with an excellent rating I think will think twice before they let a large number of struggling children into their school.
All schools have good teachers in them that have high expectations for all students. But there are students who may take a little longer to reach the goals set before them.
I feel that a big part of the answer to the problem is to help the parents with their children before they ever reach school age. Alot of parents don't give their kids what they need to be successful in school before and after they enter.
No child should be left behind, but we need to do more to help the ones that are slowly being left behind. The ones that do well would do well in any school.
About the social security issue, I dont think taking money out of a system that they say is going broke will solve anything.
 

Cal

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Wow, ez now, so much of what this article stated, you have validated! Starting with the budget issue a few posts ago, before you even had real facts you threw a fit about cuts, poor this and poor that, remember? Like the VA budget recieving cuts, when actually it grew.

Now you want more government intervention and money thrown at programs and policies that aren't working. Like more preschool? Is the government supposed to raise kids, too? Maybe a program for potty training? Do you have children? Would you pull your child out of a substandard school with alot of indifferent parents because it wasn't "fair" to whomever?? I certainly hope you would do what was in the best interest for your child. What is wrong with competition among schools, teachers, and students for the best and brightest? Do you see a benefit to keeping high achievers in a classroom setting with low achievers and behavioral problems? Do you see even a benefit to the low achievers to be out of their realm of ability? I see it as a greater problem especially during the impressionable adolescent years. I would like all of the classroom parents of our child to have our value system, if possible. Hardass as it may seem.

And not solving the Social Security problem by giving people more freedom to invest for their own retirement, not to mention greater returns and actually OWNING the account, is just plain socialistic, unjustifiable nonsense.
 

Brad S

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Here's what leftistas fear about private investiment SS. First, let me remind everyone that Bill Klinton suggested investing SS funds in the stock market. This is attractive from a return perspective, but the Klinton plan would be exactly nationalizing private companies (hence the spelling change from Clinton to Klinton). So Klinton and Vladamier Kennedy would conceivably vote the SS shares of Microsoft, ha ha ha. So we all can see the prosperity generated by stock market returns, but only the Bush plan with private accounts allows us to harness this wealth maker in an acceptible way. But what will happen in 15 years of "private accounts" experimenting? The private accounts will look soo damn attractive that the electorate will scream to double the private section, and on and on until we have the freedom we were given by God. The private accounts will expose how pathetic the Social Security SCAM is to the common worker, and the exposure will be ugly.

I have long believed the Left feels threatened when the "masses" prosper. As I look over the US economy, the scheme of draining 14% of gross wages for 50 years in return for a dozen years of impoverished retirement is, by a wide margine, the greatest instrument of poverty.
 

Bull Burger

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Brad S said:
Here's what leftistas fear about private investiment SS. First, let me remind everyone that Bill Klinton suggested investing SS funds in the stock market. This is attractive from a return perspective, but the Klinton plan would be exactly nationalizing private companies (hence the spelling change from Clinton to Klinton). So Klinton and Vladamier Kennedy would conceivably vote the SS shares of Microsoft, ha ha ha. So we all can see the prosperity generated by stock market returns, but only the Bush plan with private accounts allows us to harness this wealth maker in an acceptible way. But what will happen in 15 years of "private accounts" experimenting? The private accounts will look soo damn attractive that the electorate will scream to double the private section, and on and on until we have the freedom we were given by God. The private accounts will expose how pathetic the Social Security SCAM is to the common worker, and the exposure will be ugly.

I have long believed the Left feels threatened when the "masses" prosper. As I look over the US economy, the scheme of draining 14% of gross wages for 50 years in return for a dozen years of impoverished retirement is, by a wide margine, the greatest instrument of poverty.


You have described Social Security very well. With parents that always thought it was a great program, they are now receiving from SS about 1/4 the cost of living.
 

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