Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Facebook Politics: Paul Ryan's Budget pt 1

Facebook and Politics don't mix.
Facebook and Politics clearly do not
mix well, according to this image
*Obligatory comment on how long it's been since my last post.*

No one wants to read about that.  Let's jump right into it: Politics! Economics! New GOP VP nominee Paul Ryan! Social Media!

I have long been a believer that social media is a very sub-optimal medium to discuss serious and important issues such as politics or religion.  Twitter (where I am much more active than here on my blog, follow me @bobbyg27, yes that was a shameless self-promotion plug), especially, with the 140 character limit, is particularly notorious for "sound byte"-style discussion, where shock value is both easier and more resonating than true content.  Facebook is not much better, particularly when political discourse can lead to "defriending," a likely permanent separation between two barely-acquaintanced parties.

And yet, despite my knowing better, I still partake.  It is too tempting.  Sometimes there are things I want to say that I want people to hear/read, and sadly Facebook pushes what I say to several hundred people.  Twitter is too shortform for any meaningful exchange of ideas, and this blog would be perfect but I neglect it too much.  So Facebook is where I plant my soapbox, to the anticipated furrowed brows of my liberal friends.

I have had a few exchanges of late that I am proud of, and in the interest of spreading the word, soliciting feedback from my many blog readers (lol), and mostly archiving for my own later review, I will post some snippets of my Facebook exchanges here.

My first selection started pretty innocently.  OK maybe that's a lie, maybe it was baiting.  Either way, it was short.  Following the news that a longtime personal favorite politician (feels kinda gross calling him the same name as people like Nancy Pelosi) of mine Paul Ryan was selected as Romney's VP candidate, I took to Facebook and wrote, simply:
Young people should be excited about Paul Ryan.

Innocent, right? 20 minutes later, a friend (I'll still call him a friend; 4 years ago, when I last talked to him, I still thought he was a good guy) comes to my page and retorts:
Why? Because he wants to slash pell grant funding by a third? Because his budget would cut 1.1 billion dollars from early childhood education programs? Oh I know... Is it because he looks like eddy munster?

Now, I am not one to run from a political discussion, and despite my personal opinion that it is bad form to call out numbers without citing sources, I decide to engage amicably and in the interest of educating those who may not know the full story.  Of course I can include myself in this group, and I try to keep my mind open to different ideas.  That does not mean I will not try to be thorough in my own response... which was this:
Based on my understanding of Pell Grants after reading Paul Ryan’s budget (here’s the link) , he is trying to optimize the program’s funding to achieve the important goals that the program was created for.  Some of the “cuts” he is making to the program include optimizing it so that the funds go to the truly needy students, closing loopholes allowing higher-income students from qualifying, eliminating funding to “less than half-time” students so that public funds go to where their value will be maximized (i.e. full- to half-time students), and then, ultimately, making sure the program doesn’t follow the runaway train model of social security, where costs grow out of control and are band-aided by administration after administration until ultimately it crashes completely and ZERO students get any federal aid.  That’s certainly not the ideal solution, I think we could agree.

So yes, there are cuts being made the program by technical definition, but trimming fat and closing loopholes and ensuring the longevity of such a program are not the same as saying “Hey I want tax breaks for the rich” which many opponents seem to attribute to his budget.  Frankly we live in a country, a society, a world where resources and, even more so, public funds are limited.  It sure would be nice if we could give $40K a year to all college students everywhere for all of eternity but everyone knows that is not a sustainable option.  As such the government has to control spending.  Often in the case of a publicly-funded initiative, costs can get out of control and (perhaps driving that phenomenon) loopholes can be found and exploited.  Cleaning up those loopholes is a fantastic way to save money that can then be used to help the economy in other ways.

Paul Ryan makes it pretty clear in his budget that he LIKES the Pell Grant program and what it stands for.  He wants to ensure it stays around.  He talks about how just this year Congress approved more short-term funding for the program which will mean an even bigger problem in 2014-15 when that funding runs out; we will either need to increase national debt by an even greater amount to approve more short term funding (putting larger and larger burdens on future generations) or kill the program altogether.  Ryan wants to keep this program around and, to restate it once again, keep costs under control so that the burden on future generations of both students and taxpayers is manageable.

Speaking for myself and my personal opinion only here, I think that’s the right call.

As for early childhood education programs, I assume you’re talking about the proposed reorganization and streamlining of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  Ryan’s proposal is to examine through analysis and data which programs are having a positive effect on student achievement and which programs are not.  Those programs that seem to have no effect on student learning and growth would be either restructured or cut entirely.  Again, I don’t think anyone ever really believes that if there is a problem (say, youth education) that we should simply throw an endless amount of money at a wall.  It’s fine to try things out; some things will work some things will not.  Those that do not, however, should not continue to receive funding; they should not continue to take money out of every taxpaying American’s paycheck.

I personally do not think it is a bad thing, again, to leverage smart people and good analytics to determine what is and what is not showing favorable results and to begin to save money by eliminating government programs that are not working.

Lastly, in regards to looking like Eddy Munster; I believe having a familiar and comical appearance will do wonders for foreign policy as international leaders everywhere will delight in making amusing and good-natured “Munsters” anecdotes during international meet and greets.

What'd you think? Did I do a good job? Did you like how I tried to end the response in a lighthearted manner? Was I polite? Let me know in the comments.

PS, is it annoying posting in blockquote formatting?  Does it make the text too small? Will I post more often now?  Will we land a person on Mars in the next 60 years? I have so many questions! Welcome back me!

No comments: