August 17, 2017

Arlington Public Schools See Mixed Results on SOL Tests

A news item, yesterday, in the Arlington Sun Gazette reports "Arlington sees ups and downs on SOL results."

The Sun Gazette went on to report:

"The movements were relatively small, but pass rates for Arlington Public Schools students on Standards of Learning tests taken last spring were up in 11 cases, down in 12 and unchanged in six from a year before, according to new state data.

"The county school system met or exceeded statewide passing rates in all but one of 29 exams, and exceeded the statewide rate by 5 points or more on 17 of the assessments.

"State-mandated SOLs test student learning in coursework including math, reading, writing, science and social studies. Students are tested beginning in third grade.

"In recent years, the Virginia Department of Education has been ramping up the difficulty level on some tests; there were no major changes but some tweaks made to tests from the 2015-16 to 2016-17 school years."

The Sun Gazette concluded, saying:

"State Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven Staples said year-over-year changes were less important than the “long-term, upward trend” state officials were seeing.

"Scores on SOL tests are among the criteria used by state officials to determine accreditation levels for Virginia schools. Accreditation ratings for school districts and individual schools will be announced in September."

The Arlington Public Schools (APS) press release, discussing the test results in more detail, can be found here.

Growls readers who are concerned about the performance of the Arlington Public Schools are encouraged to write to the Arlington School Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the School Board office at (703) 228-6015

And tell them ACTA sent you.

August 16, 2017

A Thought about Equality

"There is, in fact, a manly and lawful passion for equality which excites men to wish all to be powerful and honored. This passion tends to elevate the humble to the rank of the great; but there exists also in the human heart a depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak to attempt to lower the powerful to their own level, and reduces men to prefer equality in slavery to inequality with freedom.”

~ Alexis de Tocqueville

Source: epigraph in Victor Davis Hanson's January 14, 2014 National Review Online column.

August 15, 2017

Federal Employees Earn Twice American Average

At the Daily Caller on August 1, 2017, Tom Phippen reported that "government employees earn almost double the average American." Here are the details, according to Phippen:

"The average government salary in 2016 was $83,072, according to a report on federal salaries from the Office of Personnel Management released in July.

"By comparison, the average wage index for the U.S. in 2015, the most recent available calculation, was $48,098, according to the Social Security Administration."

In providing context about the above facts, Phippen writes (emphasis added):

"Federal workers are also generally older, more educated, and more experienced than most workers in the private sector, according to a 2012 Congressional Budget Office study. The CBO also found that government employees make slightly more than their counterparts in the private sector on average.

"The disparity depends greatly on the employee’s level of education. Federal non-military workers with no education after high school earned 21 percent more than the average non-government worker. Employees with bachelors and masters degrees earned about the same amount in the government as in private enterprises. Government employees with a professional degree or doctorate, however, earned about 23 percent less than private sector counterparts.

"While the federal workforce is hardly representative of the entire U.S., the gap disparity between average salaries has been growing for some time. In 2001, the average government worker made 1.39 times what non-government employees made, but that ratio grew to 1.58 by the middle of 2016, according to BLS data compiled by Bloomberg News."

The nine-page Office of Personnel Management (OMB) report, "Salary Information for the Executive Branch Fiscal Year 2016" can be found here. It contains six tables, which breakdown salaries by major agency, state, gender, ethnicity/race, and occupational category.

The average American wage is based upon the National Average Wage Index from the Social Security Administration.The indexing series provides 1951 -- 2015 data. You can find it here.

August 14, 2017

EPA OIG Audit Reveals Overtime Paid Without Justification

 At the Washington Free Beacon today, Elizabeth Harrington reports, "Environmental Protection Agency employees under the Obama administration earned emergency overtime pay without justification, in violation of agency policy."

Harrington continued her reporting, writing:

"The inspector general for the agency released an audit last week finding "numerous instances of noncompliance" of the emergency overtime pay system for employees in Seattle, Wash.

"Employees must receive a waiver from biweekly pay caps if they are to receive extra pay for working during a natural disaster, or for conducting "mission-critical" work. The inspector general found just a fraction of employees in the final three years of the Obama administration who received overtime pay had requested a waiver.

"For Region 10, we identified 79 instances where employees exceeded the biweekly pay cap during FYs 2015, 2016 and 2017 (through January 7, 2017), the Most of the 79 exceedances lacked a supporting waiver request," the inspector general said.

"The Pacific Northwest region could provide only 15 requests that cited emergency and mission-critical work.

"The Human Resources Officer for the region must sign off on waiver requests, according to EPA policy. Only one out of the nearly 80 instances of emergency overtime pay was signed by the HRO.

"In addition, 11 of 15 requests lacked adequate information to determine whether there was an emergency with a threat to life and property, or whether that the work was critical to the mission of the agency," the inspector general said.

She also noted, "The inspector general said without proper oversight, taxpayer funding could be wasted on overtime pay that is not justified."

The EPA Inspector General performed the audit because it "received a hotline complaint alleging mismanagement by EPA Region 10 of its biweekly pay cap waiver process. The complaint alleged that there appears to be an absence of management control for approving biweekly pay cap waivers that is contrary to agency policy. Examples cited included: approvals for non-emergencies, a lack of review by the human resources office, missing supporting documentation, and inadequate justifications." You can access the 18-page report by clicking here.

Growls readers are encouraged to take a few minutes to write or call their Congressional representatives. Ask them to tell you what they have done to ensure agency compliance with laws and regulations. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Be sure to ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

August 13, 2017

The Runaway Entitlement Train

In early April 2017, Investors' Business Daily (IBD) featured an editorial that warned America's taxpayers, "In its latest long-term budget outlook, the Congressional Budget Office warns that our budget is seriously out of whack and endangers our nation's future. While the report will likely be ignored in Washington by politicians who like spending your money, American taxpayers would be wise to heed its message."

The IBD editorial continues, saying:

"The CBO has its issues as a prognosticator, especially when it comes to "scoring" congressional bills. But its long-term forecast for the budget is the equivalent of a horn sounding on a faraway train coming down the track: If you're on the track, you ignore the sound of that horn at your own peril.

"In recent years, we have engaged in often-bitter political debates over what in budget terms is small change, without addressing the bigger issue that we've built an unsustainable mess of a budget.

"The CBO's numbers are persuasive — and more than a little scary.

"Right now, debt held by the public is about 77% of GDP. By 2047, if current trends hold, that will grow to 150% of GDP. Imagine having credit card debt more than 50% larger than your income. How would you pay it? That's where we'll be.

"We're being driven toward a kind of national bankruptcy, in which tax revenues over the next 30 years will rise from 17.8% of the economy to roughly 19.6%, while spending will soar from about 20.7% of GDP to a shocking 29.4%, leaving massive budget deficits of nearly 10% of GDP and soaring debts that will be difficult for an aging population with a shrinking workforce to pay off.

"From about $14 trillion now, our public debt would grow to over $90 trillion. Repeat: $90 trillion.

"What's driving this budget insanity? Entitlements. Social Security, Medicare, Disability, and interest on our growing debt. Those things together will grow from roughly 12% of GDP this year to almost 22% of GDP in 2047.

"So 75 cents of every dollar the government collects will go to those three programs. That doesn't leave much room for stuff like defense, infrastructure and all the other things government now does. And our national politics will turn into a long, vicious battle between those who get checks from the government, and those who don't. It won't be pretty."

The IBD editorial provides this additional warning, "As the CBO notes, if we wait even 10 years to address runaway spending, the tax increases or spending cuts required will have to be 50% larger than today to get the same results."

IBD provides the following very scary chart:

 

One of the items on Congress' schedule when they return from their August recess is raising the debt limit. According to an August 1 article by Niels Lesniewski in Roll Call:

"One motivating factor for addressing the approaching debt ceiling as soon as possible is the mounting list of items on the Senate’s agenda.

"Several GOP senators, however, expressed the consistent Republican desire to make adjustments to the mandatory spending side of the federal ledger in any bill addressing the debt ceiling. Though some recognized the difficulty in doing so when bumping up against a possible default by the U.S. government.

"This place up here is sick; both sides spend money that they don’t have and we’ve got to stop it,” Sen. David Perdue of Georgia said. “You’ve got to fund the government. You’ve got to get past it, and the sooner we get past it, the better.”

"Historically, Republican leadership has relied on Democrats to help pass a debt ceiling increase. Some Democrats, when asked, said they had not yet discussed as a conference what to do."

Growls readers are encouraged to take a few minutes to write or call their Congressional representatives. Ask them to tell you what they have done to reduce the national debt. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Be sure to ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

August 12, 2017

A Thought about Conservatives and the Constitution

"The Conservative does not despise government. He despises tyranny. This is precisely why the Conservative reveres the Constitution and insists on adherence to it.”

~ Mark R. Levin, "Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto"

Source: Quotes at Goodreads.com.

                                             - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

For other books by Mark R. Levin, click here.

August 11, 2017

CAGW Finds "USPS is in Financial Distress"

According to a press release today from Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), "Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) expressed continued frustration following the release of the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) third quarter financial report for fiscal year (FY) 2017."

The CAGW press release added:

"The agency reported a loss of $2.1 billion in the third quarter, which was $573 million higher than the same period in 2016.  Over the last decade, USPS has lost a total of $63.6 billion.

"CAGW Vice President for Policy and Communications Leslie Paige said in a statement:

“As massive losses continue for USPS, the agency seems to be in a state of denial.  The Postmaster General and USPS’s unions are pressuring the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) to allow substantial price increases for first-class mail customers in another desperate attempt to avoid reforms that are long overdue to address the USPS’s broken business model.  The PRC should resist any pressure to alter what little fiscal discipline currently exists at USPS.  Until Congress institutes stringent market-oriented reforms and the agency makes hard financial choices, USPS will continue to dwell in financial purgatory.”

Here are eight points of concern (verbatim) that CAGW has about the U.S. Postal Service:

  • USPS is currently in the midst of its 11th consecutive year of net losses.
  • The agency has reached its statutory debt limit of $15 billion and has more than $120 billion in unfunded liabilities.
  • USPS also announced it will, “likely default on up to $6.9 billion in payments for future retiree health and pension benefits for the fifth straight year.”
  • USPS has already defaulted on a total of $33.9 billion of benefit payments.
  • On July 11, 2017 USPS bowed to union pressure and agreed to an across the board pay raise and added benefits.
  • The Postal Reform Act’s costshifting of retirement funds to Medicare would further damage a program that will be insolvent by 2029.
  • A March 2015 report by Sonecon CEO Robert Shapiro found that USPS has an $18 billion advantage over similar private sector companies.  Even with these enormous financial benefits, massive agency losses persist.
  • The Government Accountability Office has consistently placed USPS on its High Risk List.

The U.S. Postal Service 3Q FY 2017 results are available here.

Growls readers are encouraged to take a few minutes to write or call their Congressional representatives. Ask them what they have done recently to hold the U.S. Postal Service accountable. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

And ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

Kudos to Citizens Against Government Waste for their work in holding government accountable. For more information about CAGW, click here.

August 2017
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Items in Growls are written by individual ACTA members and do not necessarily represent the views of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association, Inc. Please send comments about Growls to The Growl Meister