Jackson County Opinions...

September 20, 2000

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
September 20, 2000

Not Gore, Not Bush, But Re-Elect Clinton!
After several minutes of serious consideration, I've reached the realization that this nation is going about the entire presidential election process wrong. Why entrust the future of America to untested Al Gore or George W. Bush when the man we need is already there? We need to re-elect Bill Clinton.
A minor constitutional issue aside, the romancer in chief is just what the country needs. Consider the evidence:
a) the unprecedented growth in the economy over the last eight years.
b) the reduction in the crime rate.
c) a balanced budget for the first time in most Americans' lives and the opportunity to reduce the national debt.
d) stand-alone status as the only superpower left in the world.
e) the capacity to rebound from scandals and disasters that would destroy a lesser man.
f) a virtual end to inflation.
g) a knack for diverting Americans' attention from depressing events by focusing them on the president's libido.
h) Hillary has moved to New York.
i) an incredible entertainment value.
Keeping Clinton as president should satisfy both major political parties. The Democrats would be thrilled to hold on to the White House, and the Republicans should be just as happy, since all of their major goals have been accomplished under his leadership. Balance the budget? Done. Reduce crime? Done. Hillary out? Done.
But mostly, America should remember Clinton's 1992 campaign theme ­ it's the economy, stupid ­ and demand that Mr. Clinton provide at least four more years of the kind of leadership this country has enjoyed for eight years.
You know that things are going good when the most exciting event Congress can come up with is to impeach a president for lying about his sex life. That the attempt to Newter Wild Bill backfired is beside the point. During any other administration, we'd have worried over the mounting national debt, the growing crime rate or threats from abroad, but now things are so calm that the whole country has nothing better to worry about than the president's definition of sex.
It's time to step back and see how good we have it. Do we really want to jeopardize that by sleeping through four years of Boring Al Gore or by shuddering every time George W. opens his mouth for fear of what he might say? I don't think so.
What are the issues in the current presidential campaign? I couldn't think of any either, but whatever they are, President Clinton can take them for his very own the way he's appropriated law n order, formerly a Republican mainstay. His presidency has created 100,000 new police officer positions and put numerous special prosecutors on the payroll.
The polls validate my position. They show a country comfortable with the Clinton leadership. Some of the citizens like him for his leadership in the areas of the economy, balanced budget and law and order. Others like them because they can identify with the way he keeps screwing up.
Repeat after me. "Clinton: four more years." He's da man.

The Jackson Herald
September 20, 2000

Bush for President
With the heated races that are going on in our own bac k yard, it might be easy to forget about the race for President of the United States.
After considering some of more crucial issues involved and the backgrounds of each of the two major candidates, we believe Republican George W. Bush to be the best choice to fill the office.
Here are just a few of the reasons why:
Defense. Military experts have said that our defense readiness has been seriously compromised under the Clinton administration. Bush proposes increasing military research and development by $20 billion over four years and increasing military pay by $1 billion per year to help improve turnover numbers in the active ranks.
The environment. This is perhaps a weak point for Bush, as Texas has received heavy criticism for its pollution problems. However, the Governor's programs have done a lot to clean up what coud have been a much messier situation. One of his proposals is to make the federal government - the nation's largest single polluter - subject to the same environmental laws as private business.
Immigration. Because of his home state's proximity to Mexico, Bush has dealt with this issue every day he's been in the Governor's Mansion. He suggests splitting the INS into two divisions - one focusing on border enforcement and the other on naturalization. He favors free trade with Mexico as the best way to grow our neighbor's middle class, thus lessening the drain that the sagging Mexican economy has caused on our own. He has also indicated that he favors family reunification.
Abortion. On this, perhaps the most divisive issue in American politics, Bush stands in the pro-life camp. He opposes the use of federal funds for abortion, supports parental notification, wants to outlaw partial-birth abortion and wants to make permanent the temporary $5,000 adoption tax credit. He has also proposed spending at least as much federal money on abstinence education as is spent on contraceptive education.
The Supreme Court. This is the area where the next President will likely have the most impact. During the next four to eight years, the face of this branch of our federal government will probably see tremendous change and our nation will see the effects of that change for decades to come. Bush has said he will nominate justices who are strict constructionists, who are more concerned with interpreting the Constitution as it was written and less likely to encroach on the law-making responsibilities originally given to the Legislative branch.




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By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
September 20, 2000

Politicians pandering to 'senior citizens'
If you consider yourself a "senior citizen," don't read this column. It'll only get your blood pressure up, and I wouldn't want to do that.
Now, for the rest of you, let's talk about one of politics' dirty little secrets - the pandering of political promises to get senior citizen votes. Politicians from both major political parties are guilty of this, so it is a non-partisan issue.
It's no secret, of course, that older people vote in larger numbers than us younger citizens. And although that generation difference doesn't create a solid "bloc" of votes on every issue, it does reflect a bloc-voting mentality on a few issues.
That's why politicians are eager to win those votes. Appealing to older voter concerns is a good way to win a lot of votes quickly.
But that process has gotten out of hand. In fact, it has been out of hand for the last 30 years and has led to the equivalent of middle-class welfare for the elderly.
No one is against helping those older people who can't help themselves. A hallmark of our society is to have compassion for those who need a helping hand.
But what I'm talking about is the effort by politicians to buy votes from those who can help themselves by promising a variety of senior citizen welfare benefits.
Here's one example. Back in the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was president, an elderly family member was very anti-Reagan. I asked her one day why she didn't like him. Her response was that she feared he would take away her Social Security.
That may sound reasonable until you realize this: She never paid anything into the Social Security program. Except for a year or two prior to getting married, she didn't work. Not only that, but she had a secure income from investments and inheritance. It wasn't an elaborate lifestyle, but she wasn't without resources.
Still, she had become addicted to that monthly check. It never dawned on her that those dollars came from the work of her grandchildren - she had just come to believe that she was entitled to that "government money" and she opposed any politician who she believed might hurt that cash flow.
Unfortunately, that has become an all-too-typical view, not only with Social Security, but also with Medicare and a host of state and local tax initiatives.
For example, take the homestead exemption issue that is popular with many local politicians. Proposals have been floated that would raise the homestead exemption for all "senior citizens" regardless of income. That would mean giving the same tax break to all elderly citizens regardless of their financial standing.
I'm all for raising the homestead exemption for the elderly if there is an income cap. But to just give that benefit across the board without any cap is little more than vote buying. Not all senior citizens sit in cold houses and eat dog food. There is a growing number of middle and upper middle class senior citizens who have the means to pay their fair share of taxes. One's responsibility to society doesn't end just because of age.
Frankly, these type exemptions are one reason I don't like property taxes. In an effort to cater to various special interests, political leaders create exemptions that skew the property tax digest. The result is that those with powerful lobby groups (think AARP here) work to get tax breaks that shift the tax burden to those who don't have special interest lobbies.
What's ironic about all of this is that some senior citizens complain about welfare without ever realizing that they, too, are becoming a major part of the U.S. welfare system. People who would have never taken a handout earlier in life are all too ready to lobby for additional benefits and tax breaks once they reach "senior citizen" status.
But someone has to pay the taxes to fund Social Security and Medicare. Someone has to pay the taxes that come off the property tax rolls when homestead exemptions are raised. That someone is all the other taxpayers in our society.
As long as a significant number of senior citizens march to government with their hands out, our political leaders will continue to pander by exchanging more benefits for their votes.
The real welfare state in America today isn't the poor urban unwed mother - it's the middle class retiree who has come to believe age equals entitlements.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

The Commerce News
September 20, 2000

To Improve Test Scores Try Tougher Standards
Another year of below-average scores on the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) may have been part of the reason that the Commerce Board of Education approved a series of goals for its schools and their principals. That is a start, but not all of the problems linked with the SAT can be laid at the feet of schools and administrators. The school board is also in a position to affect scores.
Students at Commerce Elementary School and Commerce Middle School routinely score above average on standardized tests, suggesting that those schools do their jobs adequately. CHS students normally surpass the state average in graduation test results. What's lacking is in the SAT - the supposed measure of readiness for college.
Last year's senior class had less than 60 graduates. It had 19 honor graduates, but those seniors averaged well below the state (which is 50th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia) average on the SAT. Those numbers suggest that CHS' focus is more on grades than on learning.
The smallness of Commerce High School has many advantages, but one disadvantage is that it is harder for students to schedule their classes and more difficult for the school to offer advanced classes. Only two advanced placement courses are offered each year, for example, and only one foreign language.
Block scheduling, supposedly implemented to improve student performance, has not. Instead, students have time in class to do homework, and officials have found that they need to offer a full year of Algebra I in 90-minute classes to teach the concepts designed to be mastered in a year of 55-minute classes.
But the major obstacle to demanding more of students is that many parents won't stand for it. With the HOPE scholarship requiring a 3.0 average in academic courses, teachers are under pressure to conduct classes so the college-bound can attain the HOPE. The result is an emphasis on better grades but not as much on learning.
If the board of education wants to truly serve the students, it can demand more emphasis on academics ­ at least for those students on the college prep track. To accomplish that, the board must make more challenging classes available, principals must insist that teachers cover more and demand more, and teachers must hold their students accountable. In return, the board of education must be able to withstand the assault of parents whose kids are making B's instead of A's, or C's instead of B's or failing instead of barely passing.
The schools exist to educate our children. The emphasis should be on high academic standards; if that happens, the test results will take care of themselves.

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