David Vitter, Obama and the Budget
Why ruin a good thing? Louisiana Senator David Vitter, who ran against and beat President Obama in the last election for Louisiana's U.S. Senate seat (actually, the opposition was officially Democrat Charlie Melancon continues to wage war against the administration while raising funds for his campaign.
It cannot be a coincidence that the three years with the most historic increases in deficits and our national debt are the same three years that President Obama and the liberal-controlled U.S. Senate have not been able to pass a budget.
Sure, the president submits a budget every year, and almost every year it reads like a fiction from another universe. And for that reason, the Democrat-controlled Senate can’t even get enough votes to support it.
Will you consider a donation of $25, $50 or any other contribution you can offer to fight to save our country from ballooning national debt?
I recently heard a speech by a British Member of the European Parliament, Daniel Hannan, to the Conservative Political Action Conference this year.
He cautioned America to not follow Europe. He said, “I’m living in your future…and believe me my friends, you are not going to enjoy it.”
There’s great wisdom in his words of caution. Greece is coming apart at the seams in front of our very eyes and other European nations are soon to follow. All because they spent bundles on handouts and stifled the free market.
But the good part for us Americans is that Europe has provided foreshadowing into what could be our future, and we still have time to change the course.
Changing that course will require drastic changes in Washington and bold spending and tax reforms.
Will you join me in fighting for those changes?
Facebook, Santorum and Contraception
The Facebook posts of the day...
Jason Redmond and 10 other people also posted about Rick Santorum.
The Obama administration is proposing a plan to deal with the prohibitions with texting while driving
This is from the US Department of Labor
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced the first-ever federally proposed guidelines to encourage automobile manufacturers to limit the distraction risk for in-vehicle electronic devices. The proposed voluntary guidelines would apply to communications, entertainment, information gathering and navigation devices or functions that are not required to safely operate the vehicle.
Issued by the Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the guidelines would establish specific recommended criteria for electronic devices installed in vehicles at the time they are manufactured that require visual or manual operation by drivers. The announcement of the guidelines comes just days after President Obama’s FY 2013 budget request, which includes $330 million over six years for distracted driving programs that increase awareness of the issue and encourage stakeholders to take action.
“Distracted driving is a dangerous and deadly habit on America’s roadways – that’s why I’ve made it a priority to encourage people to stay focused behind the wheel,” said Secretary LaHood. “These guidelines are a major step forward in identifying real solutions to tackle the issue of distracted driving for drivers of all ages.”
Geared toward light vehicles (cars, SUVs, pickup trucks, minivans, and other vehicles rated at not more than 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight), the guidelines proposed today are the first in a series of guidance documents NHTSA plans to issue to address sources of distraction that require use of the hands and/or diversion of the eyes from the primary task of driving.
In particular, the Phase I proposed guidelines released today recommend criteria that manufacturers can use to ensure the systems or devices they provide in their vehicles are less likely to distract the driver with tasks not directly relevant to safely operating the vehicle, or cause undue distraction by engaging the driver’s eyes or hands for more than a very limited duration while driving. Electronic warning system functions such as forward-collision or lane departure alerts would not be subject to the proposed guidelines, since they are intended to warn a driver of a potential crash and are not considered distracting devices.
“We recognize that vehicle manufacturers want to build vehicles that include the tools and conveniences expected by today’s American drivers,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “The guidelines we’re proposing would offer real-world guidance to automakers to help them develop electronic devices that provide features consumers want—without disrupting a driver’s attention or sacrificing safety.”
The proposed Phase I distraction guidelines include recommendations to:
- Reduce complexity and task length required by the device;
- Limit device operation to one hand only (leaving the other hand to remain on the steering wheel to control the vehicle);
- Limit individual off-road glances required for device operation to no more than two seconds in duration;
- Limit unnecessary visual information in the driver’s field of view;
- Limit the amount of manual inputs required for device operation.
The proposed guidelines would also recommend the disabling of the following operations by in-vehicle electronic devices while driving, unless the devices are intended for use by passengers and cannot reasonably be accessed or seen by the driver, or unless the vehicle is stopped and the transmission shift lever is in park.
- Visual-manual text messaging;
- Visual-manual internet browsing;
- Visual-manual social media browsing;
- Visual-manual navigation system destination entry by address;
- Visual-manual 10-digit phone dialing;
- Displaying to the driver more than 30 characters of text unrelated to the driving task.
NHTSA is also considering future, Phase II proposed guidelines that might address devices or systems that are not built into the vehicle but are brought into the vehicle and used while driving, including aftermarket and portable personal electronic devices such as navigation systems, smart phones, electronic tablets and pads, and other mobile communications devices. A third set of proposed guidelines (Phase III) may address voice-activated controls to further minimize distraction in factory-installed, aftermarket, and portable devices.
The Phase I guidelines were published in today’s Federal Register and members of the public will have the opportunity to comment on the proposal for 60 days. Final guidelines will be issued after the agency reviews and analyzes and responds to public input.
NHTSA will also hold public hearings on the proposed guidelines to solicit public comment. The hearings will take place in March and will be held in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington D.C
To view today’s proposed electronic equipment guidelines, click here.
Jindal and Education Reform
Governor Bobby Jindal marked the official opening for the new home of the Cecil J. Picard Center for Childhood Development and Lifelong Learning at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette (ULL) Research Park. At the ceremony, the Governor highlighted his education reform plan, a key component of which is improving the state’s early childhood education system.
Governor Jindal said, “Cecil Picard was a champion of using proven methods to ensure school accountability, and a staunch advocate of strong pre-K programs that prepare our students for the classroom. I know that the research conducted here will honor Cecil’s goal of improving our education system by evaluating programs being implemented across the state. This center is about more than just bricks and mortar, it’s about making sure we give all of our children the tools to succeed and pursue their dreams here at home.
The center is named after the late Vermilion Parish educator, former state superintendent, and state legislator Cecil Picard, who was one of the forces behind the creation of Louisiana's school accountability system and a strong proponent of pre-K education. The center will carry on Picard’s work as an important source of data and analysis. Faculty and staff at the center will focus on the following:
• Developing a longitudinal database system in order to draw information from a variety of state agencies to track the educational progress and well being of students from pre-K to college;
• Evaluating the variety of pre-K programs in use around the state; and
• Collecting information about the ways the state's 70 school districts are trying to lower their dropout rates.
The center was first established at ULL in 2005. The new building, completed two months ahead of schedule in September 2011, cost $7.8 million in state funds and spans almost 40,000 sq ft. The Jindal Administration invested more than $6 million to complete the project.
Empower Early Childhood Service Providers & Preschools
Today, there is nearly $1.4 billion going into publicly funded early childhood education and health care programs, not even including an additional $150 million for Head Start. However, as the Governor noted, there is very little information about the quality of instruction delivered with those funds.
Governor Jindal said, “What we do know is not encouraging. According to the data we have today, only 52 percent of children enter Kindergarten ready to learn. Further, those funding streams are disjointed and misaligned, both to one another and to standards that promote Kindergarten Readiness. The result is that we’re not leveraging the dollars we have today as effectively as we could and we’re not ensuring that students are receiving high quality early childhood education. That means providers of some of our higher quality programs, like Cecil’s legacy LA4, have to navigate a very difficult set of programmatic and regulatory standards that waste time on paperwork and bureaucracy rather than educating children.”
Governor Jindal said the state already has some key components to a successful outcomes based early childhood system. The state has high quality models like LA4 and the Nonpublic Schools Early Childhood Development scholarship program. The state also has experience with accountability in K-12 that promotes success rather than mandating paperwork, and experience coordinating services across agencies at the state level through the Coordinated Systems of Care.
Last year, a Kindergarten Readiness Assessment was established that will for the first time show if students are entering Kindergarten ready to learn, from which programs they came, and where to look for best practices to learn from statewide.
The Picard Center’s longitudinal studies on LA4 have shown how it can improve student outcomes, yet parents have little practical information in real time about individual LA4 programs and other types of programs where they can send their children.
Governor Jindal said, “The bottom line is that we’re not using this data today to the greatest extent possible and that’s why we need to revamp our early childhood system to empower our early childhood providers, preschools and our parents.”
Governor Jindal’s education reform plan will empower early childhood service providers and preschools by:
• Reducing red tape, aligning conflicting standards, and streamlining data to reduce the administrative burden for early childhood providers and better leverage dollars;
• Creating an accountability system for early childhood programs focused on outcomes and based on Kindergarten Readiness that gives parents clear actionable information in a letter grade on which to base their decisions about where to send their child; and
• Protecting taxpayers by cutting off public funding to low performing early childhood programs, even pulling licensing from low-performing programs, and aligning our incentive structure through the School Readiness Tax Credits to reward Kindergarten Readiness.
Governor Jindal said, “These early childhood education reforms will help us set high expectations for our students so they will enter Kindergarten better prepared.”
(Jindal press release)
STORY THIS WEEK: Every Sperm is Sacred
From the newsletter of Democratic Pollsters and Political consultants Anazalone Liszt Researchers
The Republican nominating process has taken several bad turns for Mitt Romney, including an unexpected loss in Colorado and 30-point losses in Minnesota and Missouri. Yet the most troubling development for Romney has to be the unexpected explosion of social issues like contraception in the campaign.
The seamless shift to social issues is explained in part by the 2011 Pew Political Typology Study, which noted, "The most visible shift in the political landscape since Pew Research's previous political typology in early 2005 is the emergence of a single bloc of across-the-board conservatives. The long-standing divide between economic, pro-business conservatives and social conservatives has blurred." In 2010 the Tea Party did a good job of keeping the focus on fiscal conservatism. That election and the debt ceiling debate have obscured a significant realignment on the right. Among the new "staunch conservatives" (11% of the total electorate), 90% agree that, "religion is a very important part of my life," which is just as high as the 90% who say "government is almost always wasteful and inefficient." In other words, there doesn't have to be a shift in who's deciding Republican primaries for social issues to come to the fore.
As turnout starts to decline (Republican turnout plummeted 57% in Missouri, 20% in Minnesota and 6% in Colorado), primaries will increasingly be decided by a bloc of highly socially and fiscally conservative voters. Yet this week's debate over contraception is not just bad for Mitt Romney. Republicans' move to the right on fiscal issues isn't readily apparent to the average voter (few could tell you that Reagan reduced the deficit mostly with added taxes). Contraception is a different story. Americans have near-universal experience with contraception and family planning, which makes it hugely problematic for Republicans to run to the right on the issue.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 90% of private employer health plans currently offer birth control (though usually with a co-pay). So it's not surprising that Americans want insurance companies to cover contraception free of charge, and support the provisions of the Affordable Care Act that require them to. The most recent Fox News poll is noteworthy because it tests this issue as a requirement of Obama's healthcare reform - not in a vacuum. According to their data, 61% approve of the requirement, while just 34% disapprove. Among women, 67% approve, and among independents 58% approve. Those numbers are similar to the most recent CBS/NYT poll in which 66% support a federal requirement to cover birth control and just 26% are opposed. According to PPP, a majority of Catholics (53%) and 62% of Catholic independents support requiring insurers to cover contraception. In ALR's polling for the Herndon Alliance and Know Your Care, 79% of likely Hispanic voters say free preventive care (including free contraception) makes them more likely to support the ACA.
The current CBS/NYT poll found that 61% favor a requirement to cover contraception for religiously affiliated employers such as hospitals and universities, with 31% opposed. The numbers in a recent Public Religion Research Institute poll were slightly more mixed - 55% agreed that "all employers should be required to provide their employees with healthcare plans that cover contraception or birth control at no cost," while 40% disagreed. They also found that while a slight plurality favor requiring religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals to cover contraception, a majority of 57% opposed requiring churches and places of worship to cover them. A lot depends on whether the focus is placed on the church or on the woman. In PPP's poll a majority of 57% say that women employed by Catholic hospitals and Universities should have the same rights to contraception as other women. Just 39% think there should be exemptions.
The mixed numbers in the context of churches partly explain why the fight over contraceptives has gotten so much traction on the right, even though so many Americans use contraception and support an insurance mandate to cover it.
Everybody's Doing It
According to the CDC's 2008 National Study of Family Growth, 99% of sexually experienced women aged 15-44 have used birth control. That includes 93% who have used condoms, and 82% who have used the pill, and 22% who have used an injected method like Depo-Provera. Among white women, 89% have used the pill at some time, compared with 68% of Hispanic women, 78% of African-Americans, and 56% of Asians. As of 2008, 62% of all women 15-44 were using contraception while only 38% were not (including women who were pregnant or trying to get pregnant as well as those not having sex).
In their first pre-marital sexual encounter, 84% of women aged 15-44 reported using contraception, including 72% who used a condom. The percentage who reported using a condom in their first sexual encounter increased from 34% before 1985 to 72% between 2005-2008.
The most vocal opposition to covering birth control has come from the Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Catholic Church prohibits all forms of artificial birth control (including condoms and the pill). Yet among sexually active Catholic women over 18, almost all (98%) have used a method of contraception banned by the Vatican. Fewer than 2% of sexually active Catholic women rely primarily on church-approved birth control methods.
Strong familiarity and comfort with contraception is part of the reason Americans support an "all of the above" approach to teaching sex education in schools. According to a December 2010 Hart Research poll for Planned Parenthood, "74% disagree that teens should only receive abstinence-only education, not information about contraception or STDs (including 68% of voters who voted for the Republican candidate for Congress in 2010)."
About 35% of the services provided to women by Planned Parenthood are contraceptive (more than 10 times the percentage of abortion-related services). While there have been repeated attempts by the new Republican House majority to roll back reproductive rights, the most visible was the attempt to de-fund Planned Parenthood in 2011. Public sentiment at the time was firmly with Planned Parenthood - according to a CNN/Opinion Research poll last April (link), 65% of adults wanted to continue funding for Planned Parenthood, while just 34% wanted to eliminate it.
That's extremely similar to Hart Research's internal polling for Planned Parenthood, which found 64% opposed to ending funding for Planned Parenthood. Independents opposed de-funding Planned Parenthood by a 64% to 29% margin. That poll showed a majority Americans with a favorable opinion of Planned Parenthood (55% positive / 25% negative).
Planned Parenthood's popularity and the publicity surrounding the House fight over de-funding laid the foundation for their battle with Komen for the Cure. When Komen attempted to de-fund breast cancer screenings from Planned Parenthood they found themselves as far on the wrong side of public opinion as Congress did. According to SurveyUSA just 30% thought Komen was right to stop funding, and 63% thought they were wrong. Just 13% said that politics "was not a part" of the decision, while 67% said it was the only reason (30%) or a major reason (37%). A PPP poll for DailyKos found a majority opposed to Komen's decision (53%) with just 39% in support - a 14-point margin siding with Planned Parenthood.
Part of the reason for Planned Parenthood's popularity may be that so many women plan their parenthood. According to CDC, the vast majority of women who intend to have children (or more children) use contraception to delay pregnancy or space births, including 48% using the pill and 27% using condoms.