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Posts Tagged ‘Barrack Obama’

Only “Bad People” Send Their Kids To Private School?

In Education on August 30, 2013 at 12:20 am

Ignorance is bliss if your name is Allison Benedikt.  Courtesy of a “terrible public school”, the Salon writer wrote:

I left home woefully unprepared for college, and without that preparation, I left college without having learned much there either. You know all those important novels that everyone’s read? I haven’t. I know nothing about poetry, very little about art, and please don’t quiz me on the dates of the Civil War. I’m not proud of my ignorance. But guess what the horrible result is? I’m doing fine. I’m not saying it’s a good thing that I got a lame education. I’m saying that I survived it, and so will your child, who must endure having no AP calculus so that in 25 years there will be AP calculus for all. [1]

True, a poor education doesn’t have to hold you back.  Ask Joe Biden.  

Her piece is aimed at the rich or upper-middle class person who sends their child to private schools to escape bad public education.  That means you, Matt Damon.  And you, Barrack Obama, Bill Clinton, et al.   Benedickt actually argues you should sacrifice your children’s future, because if no one sent their kids to public schools, you’ll, “freak out a little more than my parents did—enough to get involved.”  She says it may take a few generations (!), but eventually, public schools will have to improve.  You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs!  Your children are not really your concern; sacrifice them for the greater good!

She misunderstands competition.  Communist countries offered horrific products and horrible service because the customer had nowhere else to go to.   What companies are better known for their service: monopolies like utilities or companies in highly competitive industries like restaurants?  As lousy as the Chicago Public Schools are, surely they are better for the pressure from the city’s Catholic schools, the handful of private secular schools, and even from nearby suburban public schools, which act as a magnet to draw concerned families out of the city.  If everyone abandoned all other options and settled for their local public schools, how would that make them better?  Would teachers’ unions become more responsive?  Thought experiment:  you hate the service at your local Unfriendly Groceries store.  Is the solution to take your business to the competing Friendly Grocer or to blindly stay with Unfriendly Groceries?  If you stick it out with Unfriendly, what possible incentive do it have to change? 

Would the American economy be more competitive without private schools?  Benedickt bemoans lousy public schools, like the one she attended, that don’t require students to read books, learn calculus or even offer AP classes.    Yet, her solution is to have all students attend the worst schools?  Will this help us compete in math against the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans and Indians?  Intellectual curiosity is a gift; a fine education is priceless and pays dividends throughout one’s life.  Why not foster creativity, critical thinking and intellectual passion?

Benedickt misses the important fact that students in private schooling benefit local public schools because they aren’t sitting in seats, but the funding stays.  If you put your child in, say, a Catholic school, you still pay the same property and other taxes that fund your local public schools.  But, your local public schools don’t pay a dime to educate your child.  You effectively pay twice for schooling your child.  That should be applauded, not attacked as “bad”.  Even more so, good for you for caring about your child, instead of being like Benedickt’s parents who “weren’t too worried about it.”  I would argue excellence matters.  In many instances, the local public schools are not only substandard in terms of teaching, but dangerous.  Public schools in Chicago often are violent places.  Is it wrong for a parent to want to put their children in a safer environment?  There are some very good public schools and many great private schools.  Those public schools that get it right should be commended and their dedicated teachers rewarded.   Bad public schools should be reformed or shut down, not rewarded with blind allegiance.

Lastly, Ms. Benedickt’s argument is irrational; she is both saying that lousy public schools don’t matter (“your child will probably do just fine”) and yet, she says it matters that public schools are lousy, therefore you should care.  She contradicts herself.  Do bad schools matter or not?  Which is it?  I’d say bad schools matter, unfortunately.  

With the wacky arguments you used against effective private schools, Ms. Benedickt, perhaps a woeful public education did hold you back!

[1] http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2013/08/private_school_vs_public_school_only_bad_people_send_their_kids_to_private.html?fb_ref=sm_fb_share_toolbar

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Obama Brokered Private Equity Oil Deal & Pressured EPA to Waive Environmental Review

In 2012 Elections, Obama Administration, Political Rhetoric on November 1, 2012 at 9:49 pm

At the exact time Obama ran attack ads against Bain Capital, his Administration brokered a deal to sell a carbon-based fuel processing plant to a politically-connected private equity firm, yes, read that again, a private equity firm.  Ever more amazing, the Administration pushed its own EPA to waive an environmental review of the deal.   The report from Mark Maremont in the Wall Street Journal [1]  is behind a pay-wall, so I paste much of it below:

Since the spring, President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign has repeatedly hit Mitt Romney for his career as a private-equity executive and has aired ads accusing his former firm, Bain Capital, of ruining businesses and sending jobs overseas.

At the same time, the Obama White House played a central role in encouraging another private-equity firm to rescue a Philadelphia oil refinery, whose imminent closure by owner Sunoco threatened to send gasoline prices higher before the election.

Gene Sperling, director of Mr. Obama’s National Economic Council, helped kick-start discussions to sell the refinery to Carlyle Group, a well-connected Washington, D.C., private-equity firm.

Mr. Sperling later talked numerous times to Carlyle executives, government officials and union leaders as part of a bipartisan effort, according to participants in the talks.

Carlyle last month said it would take a two-thirds stake in the refinery and invest at least $200 million, staving off the potential for fuel-price increases and saving 850 unionized jobs in Pennsylvania, a likely battleground state in November.

To help seal the deal, expected to be made final in September, the Obama administration and state regulators agreed to loosen certain environmental restrictions on the refinery.

Pennsylvania’s Republican governor, Tom Corbett, contributed $25 million in state subsidies and other incentives.

The refinery story is an example of how the private-equity industry is a more complicated place than the image kicked up by this year’s presidential election, in which first Mr. Romney’s Republican primary rivals, and then the White House, used Bain as a cudgel….

In September 2011, Sunoco said it planned to quit the refining business and sell refineries in Philadelphia and nearby Marcus Hook, Pa. The company has said its refineries lost $1 billion over three years. Sunoco warned it would close both facilities if it failed to find a buyer.

By the end of last year, it had halted refining at Marcus Hook, and talks with possible buyers for the Philadelphia refinery, including Carlyle, had fizzled.

Closing the Philadelphia refinery, the largest on the East Coast, threatened to disrupt gasoline and heating-oil supplies in the Northeast.

A Feb. 27 report from the federal Energy Information Administration warned of the potential for prices to “spike.” Republicans at that time were criticizing the administration for rising gasoline prices.

The EIA warnings, along with a broader reduction of refinery capacity in the region, set “alarm bells” ringing inside the White House, an administration official said. Aides concluded gas prices could rise 20 cents to 30 cents a gallon in parts of the Northeast.

In late February, Rep. Bob Brady, (D., Pa.), a union-friendly congressman from Philadelphia, met with Sunoco’s incoming chief executive, Brian P. MacDonald.

Mr. Brady said the White House was concerned and asked Mr. MacDonald to think about options “if there was broader help,” according to a timeline later circulated by Carlyle, which Sunoco said was accurate. Mr. MacDonald asked to talk to the White House directly.

A Brady representative said the congressman was traveling and unavailable to comment.

On March 8, the White House’s Mr. Sperling hosted a call with the Sunoco CEO, Mr. Brady and Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Poneman. The White House confirmed the call.

The group discussed the possibility of $5 gasoline prices for the summer, Sunoco’s Mr. MacDonald recalled.

When the officials pressed him on a potential solution, he said Sunoco might be willing to keep a piece of the Philadelphia refinery through a joint venture with a partner that could contribute expertise and cash.

“It would have to be a very capable party,” Mr. MacDonald recalled saying. “Sperling pushed me: ‘Who would a party like that be’?”

Mr. MacDonald said Carlyle fit the bill.

Soon after, Mr. Sperling called Carlyle co-CEO David M. Rubenstein about the refinery, according to Carlyle, and left a message.

Carlyle has shied away from any overt involvement in politics. Mr. Rubenstein worked in the Carter administration, and the firm employs executives who have worked in administrations from both parties. It doesn’t donate to political campaigns.

Mr. Rubenstein passed the message from Mr. Sperling to a Carlyle executive who had worked with Mr. Sperling in the Clinton White House, David Marchick, according to Mr. Marchick.

Mr. Marchick said Mr. Sperling told him the White House was willing to help move the deal along. Mr. Sperling also told him the White House wouldn’t do anything just to help Carlyle and that the same assistance would be available to any potential buyer, Mr. Marchick said.

“They didn’t care who bought it,” he said.

Eventually, Sunoco and Carlyle agreed to explore a joint venture, with Carlyle paying nothing for a majority stake but contributing cash for an upgrade.

On March 19, Mr. Sperling talked to Pennsylvania’s Mr. Corbett to see if the Republican governor was interested in cooperating. Mr. Corbett, whose office was already trying to rescue the refinery, agreed.

The White House “helped with Carlyle, and we helped with state government,” he said.

A key issue Carlyle identified was a 2005 consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency under which Sunoco agreed to limit emissions at its refineries.

Carlyle wanted to work on the refinery without triggering costly environmental reviews.

The White House referred the issue to the EPA, which along with state and local environmental officials agreed to modify the decree, allowing Carlyle to transfer emissions credits from the Marcus Hook refinery, in effect giving the Philadelphia refinery greater leeway to pollute.

The agreement compressed into a few months what participants said could have taken much longer. Carlyle said it doesn’t plan to use the added credits, and over time will reduce emissions. It said the changes will provide flexibility as it carries out the upgrade.

Carlyle’s plan to turn the refinery profitable includes a partial shift to oil from North Dakota that is cheaper than crude from West Africa it now refines, and switching to newly abundant natural gas to power part of the refinery.

In mid-May, as Carlyle and Sunoco were briefing the White House and other officials on their plan, the Obama campaign launched a broadside against Mr. Romney’s Bain career, which featured a worker saying Bain was a “vampire” in its handling of a steel company.

Later, an independent group supporting the Obama candidacy released an ad implicitly accusing Mr. Romney of contributing to the death of a laid-off worker’s wife.

On a July 2 conference call announcing the refinery deal, Carlyle and Sunoco executives and public officials repeatedly thanked the White House and Mr. Sperling.

This shows Obama’s attack ads were nothing more than nonsensical politics.  Imagine what negative ads the Obama campaign would run if it were President Romney pushing a deal toward a connected private equity firm and then relaxing environmental regulations to seal the deal.

[1] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443713704577603281330597966.html

Oil refinery picture from Wikipedia Commons.

Big Bird Doesn’t Need Obama’s Federal Handout

In 2012 Elections, Federal Deficit on October 10, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Big Bird - Library of Congress, Living Legends, Award & Honors, 2000.jpg

Being a 1%er, Big Bird doesn’t need your taxes.  If you have children, surely you’ve spent plenty on Elmo, Big Bird, Muppets and other Sesame Street character royalties.  Perhaps you’re a PBS contributor.  To get our federal deficit under control, we need to cut spending.  President Obama thinks it’s an outrage Mitt Romney suggested easing Sesame Street off its federal subsidy, but the outrage  lies in a President who refuses to cut spending, even in unnecessary areas, though the country’s credit rating was downgraded on his watch.

There are more than 500 cable channels, including channels devoted to History, children’s TV shows, public affairs, documentaries and culture.  Is it unthinkable PBS could survive on its own?  Sesame Workshop President and CEO Gary Knell received $956,513 in compensation in 2008. [1]  “Sesame Street is a lucrative enterprise.” [1] From 2003 to 2006, Sesame Street earned $211 million in toy and consumer product sales. [1]  Its 2009 tax form shows Sesame Workshop took in $140 million in 2008 in 2008, with government grants accounting for just over $14 million of that (roughly 10 percent). [1]   The proportion from government was down to 6% in 2011. [4]

“Sesame Street appears in more than 120 countries,” [2] with licensing revenue achieved from all.  Big Bird has his own spot on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. 

According to Slate, “The Workshop earned about $45 million in merchandising during 2010, which accounted for one-third of its total revenue. The rest came mainly from distribution fees and royalties, and from an assortment of private donors, corporate sponsors, and government.” [3]  Sesame Street is obviously very profitable because, “The production budget for Sesame Street domestically is about $16 or $17 million per year, which produces about 26 episodes.” [3]

The Wall Street Journal provides data on Sesame Street’s significant assets:

At the end of fiscal 2011, Sesame Workshop and its subsidiaries had total assets of $289 million. About $29 million was held in cash and “cash equivalents,” mainly money-market mutual funds. Another $121 million on the balance sheet was held in “investments.” According to the accompanying notes, these investments included stakes in hedge funds and private-equity funds. [4]

Everyone likes Big Bird.  He is in no danger of extinction if he loses his government handout.  President Obama should be ashamed of his false claims and unauthorized usage of Big Bird in Obama’s campaign ad.  Big Bird should at least receive royalties for the Obama campaign, but the President would prefer to pay with your tax dollars. [5]

 

Sesame Street logo.svg 

[1]  http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2011/feb/28/jim-demint/sen-jim-demint-takes-aim-muppet-lobby/

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/12/business/media/12sesame.html?pagewanted=print&_r=0

A sample international licensing deal with British retailer Marks & Spencer is located at:  http://www.licensing.biz/news/4600/MS-to-debut-Sesame-Street-apparel.

Another example of the licensing value of the iconic Sesame Street characters is seen with Google at http://www.licensing.biz/news/4231/Sesame-Street-celebrates-40th-with-Google.

[3] http://www.slate.com/articles/business/explainer/2012/01/does_sesame_street_lose_money_.html

 

[4] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443982904578046671220961776.html

[5] http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57528812/sesame-workshop-to-obama-take-big-bird-ad-down/

For more on the business history of Sesame Street, see http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/businesses/M-Z/Sesame-Workshop.html

Pictures from Wikipedia Commons.