Right To Work

A “Right to Work” law says that a worker in a “union shop” can’t be required to pay union dues even though that worker benefits from the union negotiations with management.  Some states have passed these laws and they’re contested in a few other states.  I support Right to Work, not because I oppose unions themselves, but because I oppose forced political contributions .

I think unions have done a lot of good for working people (although some have gotten too powerful), and they serve an important role in labor/management relations.  The problem I see is that unions make political campaign contributions from workers’ union dues, thus forcing people to make contributions to candidates whom they may not support.  Why should anyone be forced to contribute to a socialist candidate if they don’t believe in socialism?  Unions donate almost exclusively to Democratic Party candidates.  Now today’s Democratic Party is no longer the party of John F. Kennedy; it’s the party of Karl Marx.  Democrats no longer say “ask what you can do for your country”; now it’s “ask what your country can do for you”; heck, even if you’re not a US citizen “come get the free stuff” from a struggling and declining work force.  Democrats also scrounge for every “right” that might endear them to some specific group while waging an unprecedented campaign against the most fundamental rights of all of us: the Bill of Rights. See my “Repeal the Bill of Rights” article for a discussion of how those freedoms are under attack.

Is “Right to Work” a fundamental right under the Ninth Amendment?  That’s a good question.  It wouldn’t have occurred to the authors of the Constitution to include a “Right to Work” amendment in the Bill of Rights because at that time everyone who was able to work was expected to work and neither unions nor the welfare state existed.  Rather than argue the entire issue I’ll focus on the political contribution portion, where compromise is possible.  I think that not being forced to make political contributions to any candidate IS a fundamental right.   It’s part of the right to vote itself.  I’d like to see a SCOTUS ruling that workers don’t have to pay that portion of their dues that are political contributions.  That would protect the unions’ need for funding to support labor/management negotiations and grievance resolution without forcing workers to be political campaign supporters.

As for socialists, remember the food lines in the former Soviet Union and the more recent food riots in Venezuela.  Socialists of a feather starve together, except for the leaders of course, who are more equal than the masses.

Hillary Tech: US STEM Students Don’t Matter

In her technology agenda (which you can read on her own web site) Hillary Clinton gives the nation’s technology moguls, hedge funds, and teacher’s unions everything they could want: billions of dollars for technology research, internet expansion, and computer science education.  Then she gives US graduate students in STEM subjects a big slap in the face.  She wants to give green cards to foreign STEM graduate students along with their diplomas.  That’s right, green cards!  These aren’t the non-immigrant H1B work visas that allow a foreign worker to work for one company; these cards grant permanent resident status with a path to citizenship.

So, how does this hurt US graduate students?  A permanent resident can apply for any job with any company, anywhere, any time.  That puts foreign graduates in direct competition for the best jobs with US graduates, and once in the job line they’ll probably get favorable treatment.  This competition is globalism at it’s worst.  It’s inherently unfair, one reason being that there’s no reciprocity with other countries.  A US student couldn’t get an MS in Computer Science in Canada, for example, and expect to be granted automatic residency.  The result will be that US students, already burdened with the heaviest debt, will be relegated to the lower paying, less challenging jobs.

How can anyone who wants to be president of the US suggest establishing a completely open global job market in the US?  Globalists like Soros must be cheering.  Hillary shouldn’t be elected, and if you’re a STEM student or have students in college you now have a good reason to not vote for her.  She’s working for Wall Street, not for you, regardless of what her signs say.

There is an alternative: the H1B visa program.  While I’m opposed to employers using the H1B visa system to replace experienced US professionals I recognize that this program has a legitimate purpose in allowing employers to fill necessary jobs that are unfilled by US citizens.  If the H1B visa regulations were strengthened to protect US citizens as I suggested in “Does STEM Matter Any More” we could balance the needs of technology employers with the right of US STEM graduates to be at the front of the employment lines.

 

A vote for Hillary is a vote against US students.

Does STEM Matter Any More?

As our progressive government and it’s subservient public school system try to steer students towards college degrees in STEM subjects the Democrats are simultaneously devaluing those degrees.  Did you see the article about STEM graduates working in Wal-Mart to pay off their huge student loans?  Want to know how this administration is undermining US citizens?  The answer is H1B visas.  Conceptually companies can only request H1B workers to do jobs for which no citizen is qualified.  Some companies are using foreign contractors to bypass the intent of the visa program.  Most recently, April 24th was the last work day for IT workers at Abbott Labs as they were replaced by contract workers, some of whom are here on H1B visas.  In some cases US workers have had to agree to train their foreign replacements and not sue the company in order to get their severance packages.  Talk about adding insult to injury.  Some companies just go the direct route.  Tech giant Intel has announced a 12,000 person layoff at the same time it has requested over 14,000 H1B visas.  Could that be a coincidence?  The whole H1B visa scam began in Silicon Valley, where cheaper foreign workers replaced US workers who were conveniently labeled “obsolete”.

So why is this happening?  One is the progressives’ obsession with globalization.  US workers must compete, even if unfairly, for US jobs.  India has an education industry created solely to teach students computer programming and minimal English so they can come to the US.  This is what I described in “Undocumented Foreign Aid”, i.e., the money these high paid workers send overseas.  Another is simply the ignorance of the public that’s more concerned with the latest reality TV show than their children’s’ futures. There’s even a bit of UN Agenda 21 as this is de facto wealth redistribution.

To protect US workers I propose the following modifications to the H1B visa program:

  1. No employer shall terminate or coerce a US employee into leaving in order to replace that worker with a foreign worker, either directly or through the use of a contractor.  If an employee is terminated the position must be filled by a US worker or left open for one year.  The position cannot be eliminated and recreated with a different title to bypass this rule
  2. No employer can require a terminated employee to sign any agreement that would protect the employer from a lawsuit if the ex-employee learned that the position had been filled by a foreign worker within one year.
  3. No terminated employee (unless terminated for cause such as theft) shall be denied any promised severance package for any reason whatsoever.

I have also proposed inversely indexing the H1B visa quota to STEM unemployment and raising the cost of H1B visa holders to US employers.

Next time President Obama says “every child should learn to code” ask him “why?”.

Update:  Billionaire Zuckerberg wants even more H1B visas to replace US workers and foreign companies taking US jobs.  He’s starting with $24 million to help train Africans in computer programming.  Since he can thank the US for being so rich why doesn’t he fund retraining for US IT workers who have been displaced by foreign workers?  Since they already know computers they shouldn’t have any problem learning the latest coding techniques, and they actually speak English.

Update 2:  Hillary Clinton’s “Tech Agenda”, her plan for US technology should she win the 2016 election, would be to “staple” green cards (permanent residency) to diplomas of foreign STEM students.  More foreigners in Silicon Valley, more citizens flipping burgers.

Opportunity Knocks. Quick, Bar the Door!

The USA currently has an opportunity to secure it’s position as a world leader in technology and industry while securing the future of it’s workers.  Opportunity is knocking and the Federal government is refusing to answer.

When I wrote “Jobs for America, Starting Today” I was looking at two regional industries, one that has been running a successful apprenticeship program for over a century and another that recently partnered with a community college to develop a skilled workforce.  Now this trend is spreading.  Honda America is establishing a program to interest students in manufacturing jobs and develop the workforce of the future, Starbucks is offering it’s employees college scholarships, and we can expect other businesses to step up.  For those who think manufacturing is just for machinists and mechanics, remember that modern manufacturing also requires engineers, computer programmers, quality control experts, logistics specialists, and industrial safety and health professionals.  The best way the Federal government could help is to Get Out of the Way.  Businesses need skilled employees, colleges need qualified students, but neither needs a government middleman to broker the deals.  Neither needs the “strings” that come with government “help” either.  Here’s how the Feds can get out of the way.

Reform and simplify the corporate tax code.  Lower the tax rate while cutting “corporate welfare” to ensure that tax breaks benefit everyone, not just the top executives.

Implement my “PARA” plan for repatriating overseas  earnings in a way that will create jobs here at home while helping the environment as businesses can use that money to  improve energy efficiency.

As millions of Baby Boomers retire their knowledge must be passed to the next generation.  Encourage businesses to offer transitional employment such are part time work to retiring employees so that new employees can benefit from their experience.  In most cases it’s a win-win proposition.  Reform the individual tax code too to help all employees.

Abolish the Medical Device Tax immediately.  It hurts everyone: patients, providers, and businesses that save lives.  Medical technology is a growing field that requires multi-disciplinary professionals, and one in which this country excels, so keep these businesses here and growing.

Cut excess overhead by eliminating requirements for endless reports that no one looks at, then cut the bureaucrats who asked for them.

Stop flooding the country with unskilled immigrants.  A tight labor market will result in wage increases without a mandated minimum wage increase while an excess of available laborers will depress wages.  Politics can’t change the basic rules of economics.

Don’t increase the H1B visa ceiling for skilled foreign workers until every citizen with a STEM degree has a job in their field.  Technology companies and IT departments  have used H1B visas to cut older (i.e., higher paid) workers out of job opportunities.  Also, since H1B holders tend to be in the higher salary ranges, don’t let their spouses work and take jobs from citizens.

If you expect businesses to help in training the workforce of the future don’t tell them who they must hire.  Let them invest in those who are best qualified for the particular work at hand.

Reject the false promises of modern socialism, which is actually elitism.  Don’t put the UN ahead of the USA either.  Resist the notion that we must become a third world nation in order to help third world nations.  We are a sovereign nation founded on one document, our Constitution, and it has helped this nation prosper for over 200 years.

Infrastructure: Circulatory system of a nation.

Once again we’re hearing how our aging infrastructure needs maintenance and upgrading.  We heard it 6 years ago when the “economic stimulus” was launched, but how much infrastructure actually got fixed and how much of that money went to political cronies?  There are very few “shovel ready” projects available at any one time.  We have a gas tax that’s supposed to fund highway maintenance, but does it all really go to that purpose?  Modern, efficient, and secure infrastructure is essential to commerce and national security so why is it neglected except when it becomes politically expedient?

Infrastructure can be categorized in two ways.  The first is as transportation or transmission.  Transportation infrastructure moves people, materials, and goods via roads, bridges, rail lines, seaports, and airports.  Transmission infrastructure moves electricity, communications, water, gas, and oil by wires, fiber optics, towers, and pipelines.  The second categorization is by ownership, either public or private.  While roads, bridges, and municipal water supplies tend to be publicly owned, much of the remaining infrastructure is privately owned, often by more than one company.  It could all be summarized in a matrix

Publicly owned infrastructure shouldn’t be maintained at the whim of political expediency or by pork; it should be an integral part of every budget, with priorities clearly set.  Companies should maintain their infrastructure simply to reliably support their customers.  In some cases tax incentives may be appropriate, while, if national security is being compromised, legislation may be required to force the issue.

Let’s look at a few examples, the first being our electrical grid.  Recent studies have shown that coordinated substation sabotage could black out much of the nation, while some have said that cyber attacks could achieve the same result.  This is a matter of national security that requires correction and coordination between the private owners and the government.  Similarly, a cyber attack on data communications could theoretically cripple our financial institutions.  Municipal water systems are an example of publically owned infrastructure.  Some are nearly a century old and leak as much water as they deliver.  This is a waste of taxpayer dollars and of a valuable resource.  Rail transportation is another example.  Rail is the most fuel-efficient way of moving large cargoes  over land, but, as recent accidents have shown, safety is critical, particularly when transporting hazardous materials.  The rails themselves, bridges, train maintenance, road crossings, and speed limits on curves all enter into safety.  Red-list  bridges are another threat to public safety and commerce.  Seaports are the gateway into the US of most imports, but here security is critical to ensure that WMD’s or illegal drugs aren’t being smuggled in.  There are many more but you get the point.

All major infrastructure projects, such as power plants, shall be built and run by US companies, for three reasons.  One is national security, as a foreign-owned plant could be shut down by a hostile nation during a time of conflict.  Another is to keep US dollars in the US to create and maintain US jobs.  Finally, most people wouldn’t want to be paying their utility bills to China.

Take infrastructure out of the political football stadium and into everyday reality. Establish a temporary joint public/private committee to review the infrastructure matrix, identify needs and obstacles, establish priorities, and present recommendations to Congress and to the states for locally owned services like municipal water supplies. Also reform and simplify the complicated permitting process that delays critical projects for years. This will provide a basis for sound budgeting and legislative action.  Allowing our infrastructure to fail due age, inefficiency, or an attack is not an option for a secure nation.

Security II

Economic security at the national level is basically sound money management, including setting priorities, managing budgets, and limiting debt.  Congress doesn’t seem to be too good at these.  Well run companies carefully manage their capital structure.  Government at all levels doesn’t bother because it can always raise taxes.  Debt can reach a point where raising taxes alone won’t work.  Can anyone even conceive of how much $17 trillion is?  How are our children and grandchildren supposed to pay this off?  True, it’s not all due at the same time, but as some debt is retired we keep adding more so the trend is upward.  Has foreign debt given other countries too much leverage in setting US policy, or could it be used as an economic weapon?

At the personal level economic security starts with a good education that leads to a decent paying job that leads to a secure retirement.  This was an improving trend in our country but that trend seems to have reversed as the middle class is in decline.

Emotional security is simply the feeling that things are good in this country.  For generations many parents found emotional security in seeing their children do better than they did.  I was the first in my family to go to college and my parents were proud.  For immigrants from oppressive countries emotional security may come from freedom from the fear of a brutal government.  Emotional security contributes to the “pursuit of happiness”.

There’s an economic metric that retailers watch called the Consumer Confidence index.  It’s a measure of both the economic and emotional status of the population.  Higher confidence means consumers are more likely to spend than when they’re worried.

ISIC: a one-stop welfare model.

Here’s a model for single welfare system (one application at one state agency handles all benefits) I call ISIC, for Identification, Support, Independence, and Community.  The first three are the program and the fourth is voluntary.

Identification:  This step fully identifies the applicants and their eligibility.  It’s purpose is to ensure that applicants aren’t using a false ID or misrepresenting their financial status in any way.  Their life style should reflect their means.  If someone claims to have earned $9000 in one year and paid $8000 for rent they need to explain how they and their dependents ate for that year.

Support:  This second step identifies what levels of support applicants need while they’re on the path to independence, i.e., food, medical care, child care, rent subsidies, etc..  Their needs may change with time but everything will be handled through the one program.  A work requirement will be part of the program.  Note 1: food does not include alcohol, tobacco, or recreational pot.  Note 2: anyone caught selling their benefits will lose them.

Independence:  This step addresses what the applicants need to be able to earn a living without social services support.  Completion of high school is one of the key factors in employability, so any applicant who dropped out will be required to earn an HS equivalency.  After that job training and educational opportunities will be based on the applicants’ interests, abilities, and job availability.

Community:  This last step is voluntary as involuntary servitude is unconstitutional.  Once independent, applicants will be asked to volunteer with some charity or service organization for some reasonable period of time.  They can choose whatever they want to do (e.g., help in a food pantry, animal shelter, or building houses) and no one will monitor them.  It’s simply based on the idea that if someone accepts help from society they should be willing to help society, and it could help build responsible communities.

To re-establish a work ethic the value of work must exceed the value of not working.

Welfare is neither a right nor a requirement, it’s a program.

And every program has rules, so if you want to participate, live with them.

Welfare was supposed to be a hand up, not a handout, but the “War on Poverty” that began with President Johnson in 1964, while it helped some, also enabled a generation of people for whom the safety net became a hammock.  Instead of ending poverty it institutionalized poverty and contributed to the breakdown of the nuclear family by incentivizing single parent homes.  The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 reversed some of this by incorporating a responsibility to work and by replacing AFDC with TANF, where the “T” stands for “temporary”.  We also have SNAP and WIC programs that provide food aid and both public housing and rent subsidies to provide help with shelter.  It’s an alphabet soup of up to 80 programs with each having different eligibility requirements.  It’s also an invitation to fraud and waste.  Since all welfare should be managed at the state level, is there any reason why there couldn’t be just one program run by one agency that covered everything?   The goal isn’t to deprive people of benefits for which they’re eligible, it’s to make the system more efficient with less overhead, fewer forms to fill out, and less fraud.  I’ll suggest a model I call ISIC, but first I’ll discuss a few related  topics.

Deadbeat Dads: Social services would cost less if every man who fathers a child and then walks away from mom paid child support.  An aggressive effort to pursue child support needs to be a part of welfare.  Sorry guys, but I shouldn’t have to pay for you to play, so “man up” and take responsibility for your kids.

Earned Income Tax Credit: EITC is a Federal welfare program that provides tax credits for low income people who work.  For some it’s a disincentive to work because it’s easy to look at the EITC chart and figure out how to get maximum money for minimum work.  Eliminating it would be politically unpopular, but why not replace it with a single coordinated welfare system?.  The amount of the tax credit is currently based on charts for 0 to 3 children, with the third being a recent expansion to EITC.  If we can’t eliminate EITC, return it to a maximum of 2 children, or even use just one chart somewhat below number 2 for everyone, and impose a maximum number of years in which it can be collected.  Why on earth are we subsidizing people to have children they can’t afford instead of encouraging smart lifestyle choices?  Also, the IRS should be prohibited from issuing EITC to those in the country illegally.

Drug Testing: I won’t advocate drug testing because it’s expensive and has mixed results, but if a state wants to do it, it shouldn’t be considered an unreasonable search that violates the applicant’s rights.  Welfare application, like job application, is voluntary; it’s not an arrest situation.  If a judge rules that pre-welfare drug testing violates a welfare applicant’s right without also ruling that pre-employment drug testing violates a job applicant’s right, the judge is making a welfare applicant “better than” a job applicant.  What happened to equal rights?  I also wouldn’t say that drug use should automatically disqualify an applicant if they’re willing to go to rehab.  The objective of welfare is to help people reach financial independence, not to punish them.

Workforce Housing: This is not a welfare issue but it is an issue in some communities for lower income families trying to improve their lives so I’ll mention it.  They need affordable places to live.  There has to be something between run-down “poor housing” and the “mcMansions” that require six-figure incomes to buy.  Workforce housing is not public housing, it’s simply affordable housing.  Many communities oppose workforce housing because they fear it will lower property values or cause an influx of children who will place increased demands on schools and hence property taxes.

Job Training. This is often discussed in connection with both unemployment and welfare.  Like many government programs, there are too many job training programs, around 47.  Why not consolidate and cut this to two, one for office/paraprofessional jobs and one for skilled trades?  To be useful, candidates must have completed high school, one way or another, and jobs matching the training must be available.  To be fair, candidates only get one pass through.  No one should become a professional student at taxpayer expense.

Minimum wage: Also not directly a welfare issue, raising the minimum wage is a topic of recent interest.  Doing so would lift some out of poverty but could harm small businesses.  The minimum wage hasn’t been raised for years, so doing it makes some sense, but not by around $3-6 all at once.  The adverse effects on the economy could be minimized by raising it incrementally over a period of 3-5 years while still providing an immediate benefit to those working at minimum wage.  The impact of a minimum wage hike also could be minimized by allowing the unskilled labor market to tighten so wages would rise naturally instead of by government mandate. I realize that a minimum wage hike conflicts with strict conservatism but my goals are to shrink welfare rolls and government itself.  Also, with inflation predicted, some wage growth is necessary to avoid stagflation.  Finally, with liberals buying votes all around, standing your ground on “NO” won’t win elections, and if you can’t win elections you can’t change the course of the country.

To reduce the size of government you must reduce dependency on government.

A Medieval education

I said there were many models for education and now I’ll look at one of the oldest to see if it’s still relevant.  The classical Trivium and Quadrivium model dates from the Roman Empire and persisted well past the Middle Ages.  The Trivium, which was considered basic (it’s the origin of the word trivial), consisted of grammar, logic, and rhetoric.  The Quadrivium subjects were considered advanced and included astronomy, arithmetic, geometry, and music.  Let’s update them for today.

The Trivium actually meets the “good oral and written communication skills” requirement commonly seen in job ads.  Grammar provides the mechanics of the language, logic the ability to formulate good arguments and recognize fallacious ones, and rhetoric (ignoring the negative political connotation) simply means being able to present ideas clearly, concisely, and convincingly.

The Quadrivium needs a bit more work.  First expand music to “arts”, expand astronomy to “science and technology”, combine arithmetic and geometry into “mathematics” and do something with the now empty fourth place.  That fourth place is where history, geography, civics, economics, personal finance, and even service projects fit, and it could simply be called “civics”.  Maybe we could call the T/Q combination a “Triquad”.

Add to this simple model a range of athletic, intellectual, and social extracurricular activities  and the model meets the three requirements of my mission statement.  Notice that it’s just a model, and a high level one.  It says nothing about how any subject should be taught or about standardized testing.   This was just a fun digression from the serious topics.

Common Core: Teach the Test!

As an abstract model for education, there’s nothing wrong with Common Core.  There are lots of models, some going back centuries.  Let’s leave this “one-size-fits-all” model as an abstraction, not public policy.

When a model becomes linked to Federal funds or relief from other mandates it becomes a de facto mandate, a Federal intrusion into education, an area traditionally reserved for the states.  Federal “carrot and stick” intrusion is all about control.  In 1859 J. S. Mill warned against public education being a means to develop obedient citizens who will do whatever the government tells them to and a means to void parental values children have learned at home.

When a mandate becomes intertwined with other mandates it also becomes self-reinforcing.  The increasing demand for standardized testing feeds the demand for a standardized curriculum so that schools and states can be compared.  The test results will them be used to modify the curriculum mandate which in turn will modify the test questions.  This is called a feedback loop, something that works well in industrial process control, but is education an assembly line?  Good teachers don’t like teaching the test, but what happens when the curriculum and test are one?  Kids have already figured standard tests out and don’t worry about them.

When a model becomes loaded with liberal propaganda it becomes indoctrination, not education.  For example, 8th graders must be familiar with gender identity issues.  There’s an English lesson that uses sentences that imply that a president has dictatorial powers and a history lesson that distorts the 2nd amendment.  This is the result of an unholy alliance among Marxist academic leaders, teachers’ unions, and textbook publishers.  Our children are the losers.

When a model seeks to create a national student database containing identifiable student information it becomes an abomination.  This has nothing to do with improving education but everything to do with tracking citizens from birth to death by an ever expanding and more intrusive Federal government.  This is about control, nothing more, and parents should be demanding the right to opt out for their children.

Common Core is focused on the productive aspect of education.  The concept was developed by David Coleman and Gene Wilhoit, but they didn’t have the money to fund it’s development or lobby governments for it’s adoption so they presented their concept to a progressive billionaire.  Bill Gates, through his foundation, has donated over $100 million dollars to the Common Core effort.  Now Mr. Gates has said many smart things about schools, including the facts that children need to learn that life isn’t fair and that the world doesn’t owe them a living. You mean I don’t get an award just for showing up? I believe he is, however, primarily concerned with employment.  One indication is that reading classic literature is being subordinated to reading informational texts

If you were upset with the set theory approach of “new math” and didn’t have enough graph paper around for Medieval “matrix math” you won’t find relief in Common Core math.  For fourth graders to add 7+7, one set of instructions are to “use number bonds to help you skip-count by seven by making ten or adding to the ones.”  That makes about as much sense as our tax code!  Are number bonds like chemical bonds?

There is a history of laws prohibiting Federal officials from mandating or controlling schools’ curricula, including the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (the Feds first venture into education), The 1970 General Education Provisions Act, and the 1979 law creating the Department of Education.  The Dept. of Ed. was supposed to serve as an information exchange, not a curriculum administrator.  It has overstepped it’s mission.  Corrective action will be to eliminate the Dept. of Ed. completely or to downsize it to perform it’s original functions and save tax dollars.  Provide Federal education grants to each state but eliminate the “carrot and stick” control strategies.  Return control of education to the states and to the parents and ban any national databases or mandates for interoperable state databases that track identifiable student information..

Face the fact that Federal involvement has not improved education in almost 50 years.  Fifty years ago colleges didn’t run a lot of remedial math and English courses.  Today remedial courses consume expensive college class hours and prevent some students from completing a degree in 4 years.  Fifty years ago employers didn’t complain that new employees lacked math or communication skills; they do today.  Finally, the government has expanded the Head Start program even though it hasn’t proven to be of any measurable long term value.  This doesn’t sound like the right direction to me.

Update 2016: News flash: Grade 12 student math scores falling and language skills stagnant.  All it cost was millions of dollars to “upgrade” to Common Core.  It’s time to end Fed Ed.