Before A Christmas Season-Finale,
Some More Somber Column Commentary

This week, a of double-barreled column, starting with my customary type of comments on political and other significant issues of the day, ending with recognition that this is, after all, the “holly, jolly Christmas” season of the year.

As to the public issues which seem to me to invite comment, I start with a critical look at the misrepresentation of the current dispute involving labor union membership in Michigan.

News accounts have concentrated on massive labor union protests—it might be called government by intimidation tactics—outside the Michigan state capitol.  The state’s legislature was enacting eminently sensible legislation based on what a good many Americans believe is a fundamental American principle; i.e., individual freedom of choice, so long as that choice remains within the bounds of generally accepted behavior.

In Michigan, the issue clearly wasn’t an assault on labor unions’ right to negotiate contracts with employers, with the unions free to employ strike tactics if negotiations fail to produce a contract extension.

The law passed by the Michigan Legislature and signed by the governor simply gives an individual employee the right to freedom of choice; i.e., the right to refuse to join the union and refuse to pay tribute to the union by being required to pay the union the equivalent of union dues.

Nebraska Is A “Right To Work” State

Some 20 states have such “right to work” laws.  Nebraska voters approved a “right to work” amendment to the state constitution by a 3-2 margin in 1946.

This freedom of choice reality got scant mention in accounts of the raucous call-out-the-policy labor union demonstrations outside the Michigan state capitol.

A front-page news story carried this headline:  “Michigan laws deal blow to unions.”  The headline could well have read:  “Michigan laws give workers freedom of choice.”

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“Tax-Hike Targeting The Top 2 Percent
Wouldn’t Finance Government For 10 Days”

On and on it goes, the effort by some wealthy Americans and politicians like President Obama and Vice Presidential bumbler Joe Biden, to portray a tax increase targeting the “rich” as the key to reducing the annual Federal spending deficit.

The obvious shortcoming in the policy is consistently overlooked.  There aren’t enough “rich” Americans—the top 2% is cited by people like Joe Biden as the appropriate target to produce significant tax revenue increases.

The fallacy of the “target the rich philosophy as an answer to the nation’s need for more tax revenue was recently pointed out by columnist Thomas Sowell.

Sowell recently wrote (and others knowledgeable in regard to the nation’s tax structure has said much the same thing):

“Raising the tax rate on everybody in the top 2% will not get enough additional tax revenue to run the government for 10 days.”

The hard truth is that all the talk about “tax the rich diverts attention from the reality that there must be general tax increases (certainly including the rich) pretty much all along the line, including increases on the middle class and on at least some of the 47% of Americans who don’t pay any federal income tax at all.

The timing and amount of the tax increases should be coordinated, of course, with efforts to bring the national economy back to a healthier level.  But this nation cannot continue to write billions of dollars of I.O.U.’s in the form of additional bond issues pushing our national debt to a level which threatens de facto bankruptcy.  There must also be a rollback in federal spending, of course, as in, for just one example, federal subsidies for wind power and solar power installations.

* * *

Busing, Voluntary This Time, Still Doesn’t Produce
Black/White Diversity In Omaha Classrooms

The relatively new state-created Omaha Learning Community is learning that busing children away from their neighborhood schools is still not a popular or effective way to produce black/white classroom diversity.  The Omaha School District, under court order, tried busing more than a generation ago.  It was a failure and abandoned as soon as this could legally be done.

A recent news story reported on the efforts on the new Omaha Learning Community to promote contacts between black and white students.  The story started with these words:

“The state’s effort to mix poor and more affluent kids in Omaha-area public schools to match the community’s overall poverty rates is having little affect, a new report says.

“Nearly two out of three kids transferring under the Learning Communities voluntary open enrollment system did not contribute to the socioeconomic diversity of their new school, according to the Learning Community’s annual report to state lawmakers.

Earlier Busing Reduced Classroom Time

More than a generation ago, under court order, the Omaha Public School District adopted a policy of forced busing in an effort to promote better understanding and relations between black and white students.

The effort generated very little support among either black or white parents.  A significant number of black parents expressed the feeling that busing time could better be spent concentrating on better educational outcomes in neighborhood schools.

It was pointed out that classroom time had to be reduced in order to compensate for the time spent in busing students back and forth.

(The recent news story, you will note, refers to children as “kids,” consistent with the new younger journalists’ rejection of more traditional—and still more appropriate—language.  Motherhood, it might be said, is also a casualty.  In new journalese, mothers are now consistently referred to as “moms.”)

* * *

President:  Gun Violence Must Be Curbed.
What Chance Of Getting That Done?

Any holiday season feasting could well include a smorgasbord.  This week’s offering:

–In his address to the memorial service in Newtown, Connecticut, the community where 26 schoolchildren and teachers were murdered by apparently a mentally deranged 20-year-old killer, President Barack Obama said:

“We can’t accept violence like this as routine.”  (I doubt that very many Americans accept such violence as “routine.”)

And this from the president:  “We can’t tolerate this.”

One TV commentator interpreted these presidential statements as a prelude to some proposed plan of action.  An effective plan will be hard to come by, as I see it.  But efforts in this direction will be welcome, as were the president’s compassionate and very appropriate words spoken at the memorial service.

–A recent poll which the Associated Press co-sponsors was reported as showing that an increasing majority of Americans believe that there is significant global warming.

The story made the customary poll-reporting mistake of saying—not implying but simply saying—that all Americans share the opinions expressed by the miniscule percentage of Americans who were actually polled.

One explanation for the increase in the percentage of polled citizens who believe the global atmosphere is warming would be the fact that this opinion, held by a significant number of scientists, is repeated over and over and over again.  Contrary views, including the views of some other scientists, get very little attention.

–For Husker football fans, an appropriate 11th-hour Christmas gift decision might well buy one of the “Husker history” books which the newspaper is promoting.

I hope the books sell well, but I also wish that the title of the latest Husker history book and the advertising promoting it were more accurate.

Focusing on the last four years of Tom Osborne’s remarkable coaching career, the book is titled “Unbeatable.”  The truth, of course, is that during that four-year span, the Huskers won two national championships in 1994 and 1995, then had an 11-2 record in 1996 before the third unbeaten season in 1997.

A remarkable four-year record capping Osborne’s memorable 25 years as Husker head coach, but not an “unbeatable” four-year performance by the Cornhuskers.

* * *

Some Advice For The Holiday Season:
Celebrate But Remember The Words Of Jesus

What better way to end this week’s column than wish you well as you celebrate the Christmas season with family and friends.  And very importantly to suggest that you reflect on the significance of the life—and death—of Jesus of Nazareth.

Whatever your religious beliefs, I believe the Christmas season every year should remind us to be grateful to a simple Jewish preacher named Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus, in 11 words as translated into English, left us with a philosophy of life which should be remembered by us not just at Christmastime but every day throughout the year:

“Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

Happy holidays!

* * *

Please join me on again next Thursday for a brief look back at 2012 and a look ahead to 2013.

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