I’m pretty damned sick and tired of all this “fiscal cliff” bullshit that is transpiring in Washington, D.C.

Our elected representatives are going about the nation’s business, indeed OUR business with seemingly no concern for the real people outside the beltway. They do not have the guts to deal with any national financial issues in a straightforward way that serves the PEOPLE.

But, surprisingly, (well, not so to me, I have been seeing this crap for the past few years) much of the public seems to be overly concerned with what they imagine or have been falsely told our reps in the Capitol receive as pay and benefits.

Folks, for the last time Congress does not have its own  superior health care insurance plan that gives them access to secret cures for hangnails and male-pattern baldness. They do not, upon election, have a guarantee of their Congressional salary for life. And hey, you idiots, they do pay into Social Security.

Moreover they are subject to the same laws we all are including the laws of physics. The rumors of them using teleportation for trips to their home districts are greatly exaggerated.

But let me tell you what Congress, or at least large segments of it, are doing or not doing that is in no way beneficial  to the good old U S of A, hard money edition.

They oppose funding for public broadcasting and Planned Parenthood that totals less than $1 billion per year, but somehow have qualms over cuts in the extremely bloated Defense budget which wastes billions. Of course the latter pays dividends by increasing private sector spending on funerals.

Many oppose a slight increase in  a tax rate for an extremely small minority of people who have been the only income group to see true gains over the past thirty years. A tax rate that, for someone earning $1.5 million a year would result in costing them approximately $50,000. Gosh, one less shipment of caviar to the mansion might be unbearable.

But many favor for spending cuts in Social Security which, by law is really not to be used for deficit reduction because it is self-sustaining.


One of the devices that may be used in this goal is to utilize a new formula for Cost Of Living Adjustments (COLA) to benefits. Without going into detail here (addressed in a previous post) this means any hikes in benefits will be less in the future. Never mind that my own monthly benefit has increased by but $36 the past three years, with no raise in two of them.

Ok, I’ve got a dog in that fight but I have no personal interest in subsidies to billion dollar businesses, agribusiness conglomerates, the drug war/private prison complex, warrantless searches and wiretaps under the Patriot Act or bunches of other areas of spending that could easily be cut if not outright eliminated.

Instead there are too many who would invest less in education and infrastructure that would actually strengthen America.

Now comes health care.

All kinds of perversions, permutations, variances, cuts, qualification age-raising and who knows what other foolishness may be used to “rein in Medicare costs”. Well, citizens, we need to rein in Medicare costs because we need to rein in medical care costs. I don’t have a comprehensive plan for doing so but a good start could be made by adapting Medicare principles to apply to the general public.

There are allegations that this would be socialized medicine with huge bureaucracies, rationing of care and the like. Private insurance would be better, so the argument goes. Well guess what, sports fans, the fucking private insurance companies have their own bloated bureaucracies that result in higher administrative costs for profit margins, executive pay, and also lead these private companies into rationing care.

I assure you if we looked at all areas of government spending we would find that the cost benefit ratio is much better with putting our resources into education, health care and infrastructure than in killing Taliban and making millionaires and billionaires richer.

Does this make me sound angry? Damn fucking right I am angry. Blame Congress, not me.

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  • hockeyfather  On December 13, 2012 at 4:17 PM

    We already spend more per capita in education than any other country in the world yet we rank 9th in science performance and 10th in math? If more money were the answer, wouldn’t/shouldn’t we rank 1st across the board in performance?

    Spending more money is NOT always the answer, especially when we are headed over the fiscal cliff…

    • umoc193  On December 13, 2012 at 5:46 PM


      I haven’t checked the figures so this is off the top of my head.

      There are two components to this.

      Public education is very dependent on property taxes, which can be pretty uneven from district to district. I am guessing that too often whatever spending from whatever sources is not cost efficient. Let’s say, for instance, that Mt. Lebanon gets a great return for dollars spent while Clairton does not.

      I don’t believe this reflects much of anything in terms of pure dollars involved. There are societal factors that overwhelm whatever money is available. But we applaud Mt. Lebanon and dispargae Clairton without examining and applying what processes and lessons could be effectively utilized in both systems.

      I don’t know that this disparity is present in the countries who kick our ass.

      I do know that public school administrative hierarchies have greatly expanded since my own school days nearly fifty years ago. Is part of this expansion due to federal/state reuirements? I’m sure there is evidence of that. But how much is due to local demands that become acceptable to the public because it is sold to them with pretty packaging?

      Too often the public is led to believe that teachers are vastly overpaid but the hierarchies are sacrosanct and immune to criticism.

      Something else to consider (and I’ve done no research) is how is money spent in these other countries. Do they have gleaming new campuses with all the latest technology (the latter probably universal in Japan, land of computerized toilets)? Is their emphasis on the basics? Again too often here testing qualifications outweigh actual learning. That’s a problem with NCLB as well as other initiatives. Readin’, ritin’ and rithmatic are not emphasized enough.

      But you conflate this local spending with the brunt of federal spending on education. Federal investment in advanced education is a positive. Scholarship and loan programs usually are capped no matter the cost of the school involved.

      But given all that, our fiscal problems lie little with programs and policies addressing education but large with out of control defense spending for instance plus farm subsidies that mostly go to corporations, or the insane drug war that, if ended, could bring in additional revenue without societal harm, and other policies that greatly favor the already haves over the don’t have-but-need-some-assistance-to become the haves.

      See? I wrote all that without calling you a filthy racist conservative. LOL

      • Hockeyfather  On December 14, 2012 at 9:28 AM

        See, we can all get along!

  • Go-Eagles  On December 18, 2012 at 11:35 AM

    I graduated high school in ’82. In our high school, we had a principal, assistant principal, several guidance counselors and two secretaries. There was probably 800 kids TOTAL in grades 10, 11 and 12. The athletic director taught wood shop. Take a look at a “typical” high school in todays world with bloated bureaucracys with multiple assistant principals, dean of students, media relations, activities directors, 8 secretaries and the lists go on and on.

    Take a look at any school budget. At the end of the day, we are spending just as much money outside the classroom (approximately 40%) as we are inside the classroom (60%) for instruction. Thirty or forty years ago, it was probably a much higher percentage spent IN the classroom.

    Leading me to …….

    To put it into perspective, take a look at catholic schools. The Diocese of Pittsburgh Office of Education budget is $1.2 million serving 25,000 kids in parochial schools. The PPS spends $73.9 million in central office serving the same number of students. As you can see, it is NOT even close. There is the PROBLEM.

    If the catholic schools can do it with FAR LESS, why can’t the public schools?

    BTW, you’ll find out that we spend MORE PER PUPIL in our urban school districts than the suburban school districts like Mt. Lebanon. So, it is NOT a funding problem in urban schools.

    UMOC – I disagree with you to a certain extent. My local district has some pretty nice facilities. I’m talking classrooms with the proper technology (computers, whiteboard, use of Ipads, online tutoring and classes, online gradebooks, etc.. So, I don’t believe that we are behind other countries.

    • umoc193  On December 18, 2012 at 1:34 PM

      We do have areas of agreement, but I believe some of your numbers are a little skewed.

      First, I don’t believe the generalization that urban schools spend more per pupil than suburban ones as a rule. Here’s a complete list of Pa. state districts spending per pupil.

      High school tuition in the Diocese is $8950 by comparison.

      I think also that Pittsburgh City Schools have about 25,000 students but the Diocese of Pittsburgh is down to about 21,000. Nevertheless your point about their comparable administrative costs is well-taken. I’m not vertain a direct comparison is valid because the Diocese has other factors at play including parish costs that may not be reflected in the Diocese budget, nut again, your overall point holds here.

      But, in defense of the city, it must meet certain federal and state requirements that the Diocese does not and there are costs in that. Is that a $70 some million difference? I doubt it. (As an aside about 10 years ago I dated a woman who worked in the central office in Oakland and a lot of the positions seemed to be duplicative or superfluous.)

      In the end I will concede that the district probably wastes a lot of money in administration.

      “So, I don’t believe that we are behind other countries.”

      Well, by most measures in math and science we do trail a number of other countries. That is based on comparable scores, not gut feelings.

      So in summary we have some differences over actual numbers and, to an extent, are comparing apples to oranges, but we do share a belief in bloated administrative costs in public schools, but differ in our recognition of achievement compared to other countries.

      Fair enough?

      • Go-Eagles  On December 18, 2012 at 5:02 PM


        I have 3 kids that have attended parochial schools. My eldest went K-12. My second is in high school and my youngest is still in grade school.

        The numbers provided in the PG article are correct. Tuition in a catholic grade school is $3,500, which is what I am paying right now. Typically, a parish subsidy is $1,500 to $2,000. Therefore, the total to educate a child is $5,500 to $6,000. It’s in that neighborhood.

        The $8,950 figure for a catholic high school is low. Tuition for catholic high school (Oakland Catholic, Central Catholic, North Catholic, etc.) is closer to $10,000+. The school subsidizes another $2,000 bringing the total to $12,000.

        However, your Homesurfer link is somewhat flawed. I had a conversation with the superintendent of our local school district. Administrators do NOT like to talk in terms of per pupil spending. They use the term tuition.

        It’s not the whole truth. It’s a half-truth.

        The bottom line is the bottom line. PPS has a budget of $521 million for 25,000 students that equates to $20,000 per student. Go look at your homesurfer reference. PPS is no. 23 with $15,581 per student. PPS is trying topresent a number that is indicitive of spending in the classroom.

        Shaler Area (my district) has a budget of $71 million for 4,700 kids or $15,100 per student. Shaler is no. 276 with $9,884 per pupil.

        UMOC – See how they skew the numbers. Once again, in my world, the bottom line is the bottom line.

        Agree. There are variables between catholic and public schools. Having said that, there is a large gap between $5,500 to $6,000 and $15,581 or $20,000. The real apples to apples comparison is $5,500 versus $20,000. Personnally, the big difference is administrative cost and salaries. Yes. There are the mandates and resources required for spec. ed. kids.

        Here is my point. There is a large difference between the cost of parochial and public schools.

        Later …………

        • umoc193  On December 18, 2012 at 6:19 PM

          Agreed that PPS is on the upper end so far as cost/pupil but the list I found does not substantiate the generalization of urban being higher than suburban.

          I believe I have said myself that administrative costs of public schools are too high. I do not believe either of us has sufficient data to analyze to draw conclusions as to exactly why there is such a spread in public districts that may or may not have a correlation to performance.

          You know yourself that students attending parochial (and probably many private schools) have parents who are involved with their education, footing the bill for it after all.

          I am not familiar with parochial schools from the standpoint of whether there are any entrance qualifications, or will they accept any child with the money? That question is about the K-8 schools. I see that the high schools have separate entrance requirements.

          One additional note. Pittsburgh’s CAPA is a high-performing school but also sets high qualifications for entrance as do Catholic high schools. Without regard to pure cost of either system, do you think that fact at least suggests that a limited, more exclusive enrollment, is a huge factor in performance and may provide at least some clues as to how to get all schools to do better.

          I realize there is no simple solution (such as money) to any of this.

          But also state and local spending and curriculum have more to do with our public schools than anything the federal government does (save for NCLB, which I don’t think works). On the other hand investments in higher education by the federal government come in many different forms and may, in many cases, be beyond the ability of our state and local governments, or even private resources, to effectively accomplish.

          That is not an unmitigated endorsement of any and all federal spending in that area, just the notion that it is in our national interest to help. Evaluation and re-evaluation of individual programs should always be on the radar.

      • Little_Minx  On December 18, 2012 at 10:28 PM

        Don’t parochial schools have a certain number of religious, who work for practically nothing?

        • umoc193  On December 18, 2012 at 10:48 PM

          There is that to consider.

          In other words I support the idea that public school administrative costs are bloated if not ridiculous. Lower costs from the parochial set are expected for all the reasons we’ve discussed, so using them as a model for what public districts should have is not workable.

  • Anonymous  On January 8, 2013 at 8:30 PM

    Hi, UMOC. In going through my 2012 calendar before throwing it out, I came across your blog address and thought I would say hello.

    Devildog, the troll.

    • umoc193  On January 8, 2013 at 10:18 PM

      Hello yourself. Keep exploring and offer your views.

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