Month: May 2010

Crist’s Last (Conservative) Stand

Not long ago, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist put the last nail in his GOP-Senatorial campaign coffin by vetoing state legislation that would have implemented wide-ranging teacher performance pay. Crist said the bill was “rushed through” and contained “significant flaws;” under the proposed legislation, Florida teachers’ pay would have been tied directly to student performance on standardized test scores. If Floridians valued a thoughtful approach to spending tax dollars, they might have applauded Crist’s decision from both sides of the political aisle. From the left, tying teacher pay to a single standardized test score has never been popular, as evidenced by the amount of pushback the legislation received from teachers, parents and students. But from the right, fiscal responsibility is supposed to be a foundational tenet of conservatism. When you aren’t sure what you’re buying, it’s a good (and conservative) idea to hold off. And that’s the issue with merit pay tied to test scores at present. We’re not exactly sure what we’re buying. We think that if we pay teachers more, they will work harder, or smarter. Our extra tax dollars will leverage change. But what if (God forbid!) it works? Where will the continuing increases in tax dollars come from — is the program sustainable? In this economy, can we bet large sums on something we aren’t sure will work, and we are sure that — if it...

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The Gulf Oil Spill: Reality Hits Home

Watching the Gulf oil spill unfold this past week has been surreal. Almost on cue, we have a coal mining disaster and catastrophic oil spill occur as we begin to ramp up climate and energy legislation talks. You can bet that these two disasters will shape the role of carbon-based fuels in this country moving forward. These don’t mean the end of coal and oil by any means, but there are sure to be more regulations and oversight as a result. Translation: Coal and domestic oil production will probably become more expensive. It might seem easy to point fingers and lay blame to oil companies and the “drill, baby, drill” crowd, but it’s not that simple. At the end of the day, it is you and I who are using the refined products from these deepwater oil wells. It’s easy to accost the Sarah Palin crowd, but unless you’re not driving in a vehicle powered by a petroleum product, eating food using fertilizers, using a product with polymers or wearing clothes, your hands are a little grimy, too. Maybe a silver lining emerges in the oily film in the water that is now the Louisiana Gulf Coast: As a nation we’re being confronted with the environmental challenges of energy production as they literally wash up on our shores. We’ve been insulated from these externalities as we rely on our...

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Energy and Climate Legislation in the Senate: Hope Moving Forward

The energy and climate baton has been held by the Senate since last June, after the House passed their bill (H.R. 2454). Over the past several months, this baton has been carried by three senators: Lieberman – an Independent from Connecticut Kerry – a Democrat from Massachusetts (also the home state of Representative Markey, a primary author on the House bill) Graham – a Republican from South Carolina Their work has been a commendable effort – three individuals with significant differences in their basic political ideologies, working together to develop an energy and climate bill that each could live with. In a government that, from the outside looking in, still appears heavily entrenched in partisan politics, these three gentlemen’s efforts gave rise to the hope that we could – united as a country – successfully develop the legislation that will  lead our country to the sustainable energy future that will be key in our continued success as a world power. Over the past two weeks, these hopes have been brought to a sharp precipice, first by the departure of Sen. Graham from the negotiating table and then by the Gulf Coast oil rig accident that has flooded the ocean with thousands of barrels of oil.  The first dropped supporters’ hopes as a nail in the coffin of a bi(tri)-partisan agreement for energy and climate legislation in 2010. The second...

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