Friday, April 8, 2011

There is Hope in the World...

In the midst of daily teaching 7th graders, I sometimes lose track of the great kids who are destined for great things. We tend to spend way too much time focusing on trying to help those who aren't doing their work, helping those who struggle, or dealing with knuckleheads who act like third graders.

Tonight I had the chance to participate in an event organized by some amazing high school students, who give me great hope for the future. They had attended a leadership meeting in Illinois that focused on providing positive alternatives to drinking and using drugs.

These students, inspired, organized a similar event for our 7th graders. The high school students, most of whom I knew when they were 7th graders, planned small group games, large group games, pizza, and a quality speaker talking about peer influence and positive behavior. The high school students conducted themselves incredibly well, stayed patient with chatty 7th graders, and planned an amazing event that was inspiring on so many levels.

To be honest, I just wanted to go home tonight, and the thought of spending three more hours with kids after a long week was a big daunting.

But the three hours sped by quickly. I had a great time, got to know several of my students a lot better, and had a great chance to hear about their lives. And the kids learned that it's possible to stay drug and alcohol free.

I hope we have more events like this. Not only do I gain more faith in our future watching these high school students, but my 7th graders get to see older kids who are strong, athletic, good-looking, and smart be positive and stay away from drugs and alcohol.

It was a good night.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Rep. Ryan's Plan Just Plain Wrong

Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, who represents Wisconsin, has proposed a budget plan that puts reducing the federal deficit on the backs of poor and elderly people.

And continues to keep it off the backs of the wealthy and the military.

Somehow, Ryan, who is chair of the House Budget Committee, thinks the federal government can somehow cut spending WHILE cutting taxes, primarily for wealthy individuals and corporations.

Medicaid, the federal program that aids poor and severely disabled people, would be cut and poor people would lose their right to Medicaid assistance. Medicare, the program that helps seniors with their insurance needs, would also be cut.

Granted, the federal government needs to reign in spending on both those programs. The two make up a big portion of the federal budget, and if we need to make cuts, those programs need to accept some cuts.

But Ryan's plan to cap the maximum tax rate at 25 percent for EVERYONE is ridiculous. In times of need - as we are in now - we all need to sacrifice. Reducing the percentage of tax the wealthiest of Americans pay reduces the percentage of their sacrifice.

That's called a regressive tax. The poor and elderly shoulder a larger percentage of the cuts in relation to their total earning capacity.

But that's Ryan's plan, apparently. If the rich have more money to spend, they'll spend it to stimulate the economy. That is the trickle-down theory made famous by former President Reagan back in the 80s. That didn't work so well for a majority of Americans.

What that tax decrease means is this, according to 2010 tax law:
  • Anyone making over $82,000 a year will now pay 25 percent of their income.
  • People making $171,000 to $373,000, who previously paid 33 percent of their income as tax, will also pay 25 percent.
  • And people making OVER $373,000 will ALSO play only 25 percent. 
What's even more ridiculous that while the poor and elderly shoulder a greater share of the cuts, the military shoulders nothing.


Once again, the elephant in the room is military spending, which account for over 50 percent of the federal budget. Military contractors have conveniently put factories providing jobs in all 50 states so that Representatives and Senators will not have the will to eliminate these jobs.

And no one is talking about how we might restructure that military spending into green spending on the environment, or, god forbid, education spending to produce a more educated and flexible work force.

Rep. Ryan is just plain wrong. I hate to think he's mean-spirited or callous. But if actions speak louder than words, that's my conclusion.