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October 16, 2008
It started with an egregiously untrue allegation.
I wonder now where the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee-financed big bucks television advertising campaign will go in the next round of ads seeking to elect Democrat Jim Esch with a blitz of eleventh-hour television ads targeting incumbent Republican Second Congressional District Representative Lee Terry, also of Omaha.
The ad campaign started out on the political low road with an assertion that Terry wants to “privatize” Social Security. This is simply untrue.
No candidate of any stature in either party over a good many years has favored “privatizing” the Social Security program by replacing it with a program in which the money raised by Social Security taxes would be invested in stocks and bonds.
The first round of anti-Terry, pro-Esch ads predictably suggested that “privatizing” Social Security would bring into play the influence of the financial bogeyman of the moment, “Wall Street.” In the ads, of course, Esch declares that he would protect Social Security.
The farthest that any political figure that I’m aware of has gone in the direction of alleged “privatizing” of Social Security is a willingness to consider this possibility:
Any American covered by the Social Security system would be given the option of having the government invest, in his or her behalf, a relatively small portion of Social Security tax money in a securities fund which would be professionally managed. The idea is that the return at retirement could be greater, fueled by growth in stock values.
As far as Representative Terry has gone was to indicate he would be willing to consider such a limited-private-investment possibility—a far cry from the Esch-approved charge that Terry favors “privatizing” Social Security.
The irony in all of this Democratic demagoguery—it has shown up also in the Obama campaign—is that the idea of an individual voluntarily deciding to have a relatively small percentage of his Social Security taxes invested in stocks and bonds was first brought to widespread public attention by one of the Democratic Party’s most respected liberals, the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York.
It is particularly ironic as an issue raised by Democrats in a Nebraska election. While he was still a prominent Nebraska Democrat, then-Senator Bob Kerrey spoke favorably of Moynihan’s idea, which another Nebraska Democrat, Jim Esch, is now seeking to distort to his political advantage.
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In responding to a report that the University of Nebraska College of Law discriminates against white applicants for admission, Dean Steve Willborn didn’t help build a case for the University’s discrimination-in-the-name-of-affirmative-action policies.
The news account which I saw didn’t indicate that Willborn denied the charge of discrimination but rather gave reasons which he said justified it.
The report, released last week by the Virginia-based Center for Equal Opportunity, says that a minority student with a score of 150 on the standard law school entrance exam has a markedly higher chance of admission to the UN College of Law than does a white student with that score.
Law College officials didn’t deny preferential treatment of minority applicants but said that there are only six black students in the current first-year law class of 146. The officials said the Law College also gives preference to rural Nebraskans, those who speak two languages and applicants involved in music and art. The story did not indicate that the school officials offered any justification for these various preferences.
Dean Willborn said: “We can better discuss foreign affairs if we admit students from other countries. We can better discuss sports law if we admit a college athlete. And we can better discuss race-based police practices if we admit African-Americans.
“We cheat all our students if we aren’t allowed to take these sorts of things into consideration.”
Willborn didn’t make clear how law students are “cheated” if their numbers do not include, for example, a student who has been a college athlete or students who have been involved in music and arts.
One might argue that a single former college athlete in the student body would not contribute a great deal to discussions of sports law or question how black students can facilitate discussion of “race-based police practices” unless they are screened to make sure that they have firsthand knowledge of such practices.
The thought occurs that visiting lecturers might bring an even broader perspective to foreign affairs and race-based police practices than would foreign or black students admitted in preference to white students.
The report on College of Law admission policies prompted NU officials to speak in defense of other affirmative action programs which are designed for black students.
The dean of the University of Nebraska-Omaha Business School said that if Nebraska voters on November 4 approve the proposed constitutional amendment banning preferences based on race, sex, color or ethnicity, a UNO program that pairs black students with local business people, would need to be altered or ended.
Gerard Harbison, a UNL chemistry professor, an opponent of race-based affirmative action, said simple solutions are available to save the programs that university leaders say are in danger. For example, Harbison said, UNO’s mentoring program could be expanded to include both low-income white and minority students.
Other university officials, while opposing the constitutional amendment, have said, like Professor Haribson, that programs could be altered or replaced in ways that would allow the university to work towards the same objectives. UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman, for example, while opposing the constitutional amendment, has said that even if the proposed amendment is adopted, ways will be found to promote “diversity” on the Lincoln campus.
In the run-up to the November 4 voting, I would think university administrators would hope that there is less talk of giving Law College applicants (or recruits?) preferential treatment because they are involved in music and art or have been college athletes.
* * *
Another of my occasional news media critiques:
I wouldn’t be as critical of Cable News Network if it weren’t for the incessantly-repeated “CNN, the most trusted name in news.”
CNN can, in a sense, indeed be trusted—trusted to slant the news to the left in a irresponsibly high percentage of the time.
Prime example is CNN’s continuing “360” feature, presided over rather smugly by commentator Anderson Cooper. The name is supposed to suggest coverage of an issue from all sides, comparable to the 360 degrees in a circle. I would say the results of alleged “360 degree” coverage indicate that CNN commentators don’t know much about geometry. Frequently the so-called circle is seriously one-sided, aimed at Anderson Cooper’s target of choice.
Currently Cooper is revealing, one at a time, 10 targets of choice. As prosecutor, judge and jury, CNN is creating a “10 most wanted” list of business executives and lawmakers “who got us into the current economic mess.”
The CNN “rogues gallery” started with an American Insurance Group (AIG) executive. The “indictment” included these words: “For sheer greed and gall, it’s hard to beat the executives of AIG.”
AIG did indeed perform massively irresponsibly, and billions of dollars of federal money are being poured into the company to keep it afloat. But if you are going to make a strong case against AIG, you have to go a great deal farther than did CNN, self-described as “the only news channel that gives you all sides.”
The only “side” of the AIG story dealt with a relatively trivial matter—the fact that shortly after the first infusion of billions of Federal dollars to prop up the company, AIG went ahead with a $400,000-plus outing at a deluxe California resort rewarding high-producing sales executives in a sales production competition which had started months before the economic crash.
All you heard in CNN’s indictment of AIG was language like this from Cooper: “They are spending your money on facials and spas for sales people…” (And this from Barack Obama: “They went on a $400,000 junket. They should repay the money and these executives should be fired.”)
And this is giving you 360-degree coverage of all sides of the AIG story?
The Joe Biden/Sarah Palin vice presidential candidate debate left me with the impression that Senator Biden is practicing what might be described as “kitchen table” politics.
As he has done on other occasions along the campaign trail, Biden made repeated reference to the problems which working class Americans worry about in discussions around “the kitchen table.” This, of course, is consistent with Biden’s repeated references to the fact he grew up in a working class neighborhood.
It was ironic that on the same day that Biden indicated to the debate audience that “kitchen table” concerns are at play in “my neighborhood,” The New York Times had a front-page story which carried this headline: “An Everyman on the Trail, Biden Enjoys Senator’s Perks at Home.”
The Times story included an overhead shot of Biden’s 6,800 square-foot Colonial-style beach-front house, purchased in 1966 for $350,000.
One would assume that there aren’t very many working class people gathered around kitchen tables in Biden’s neighborhood, his comments to the contrary notwithstanding.
* * *
No Andersen family dog story to end today’s column.
Instead, another cartoon from that delightful book of dog cartoons (titled “They Moved My Bowl”) by New Yorker cartoonist Charles Barsotti.
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