Saturday, August 27, 2011

Calling out Republicans on voter ID

You Lie! 

Opinion by Will Moredock

If you read South Carolina's daily newspapers, you can be forgiven if you never heard of the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is a corporate-funded juggernaut which works with Republican state legislators throughout the country in pushing a hard right-wing agenda, including anti-union legislation, privatization of schools and prisons, and rolling back environmental regulation.

Another of ALEC's priorities is passage of voter ID laws wherever possible. According to In These Times magazine, a total of 30 states already have such laws, which were unheard of five years ago. Eight others passed voter ID laws this year. South Carolina was among them.

Voter ID laws – wherever they are passed – have one thing in common. It is no longer enough to show a voter registration card to cast a ballot. Now one must show a photo ID, usually a driver's license.

Why the sudden compulsion to force voters to show their picture at the polls?

GOPers would have you believe they are protecting the integrity of our elections. Showing a photo ID insures that the person casting the vote is, in fact, who he says he is. Sounds reasonable enough, Yet, when was the last time a person was charged with impersonating another voter at the polls in S.C.?  It hasn't happened in at least 40 years, which is apparently how far the records go back on such matters. Nationwide, there have been fewer than two dozen cases in the past 20 years.

Clearly there is no epidemic of voter fraud in the state or in the nation. So why the push for voter ID?

“The overall idea is pretty obvious,” journalist Frances Fox Piven told In These Times. “Both parties expect close elections in 2012, and if you can peel off just a couple of percentage points, you can determine the outcome.”

Most adults carry a driver's license with their picture on it. Those who don't are usually people who don't own cars or people who are too old to drive. In other words, poor people and others in need of social services. To put it more succinctly, people more likely to vote Democratic.

This is what voter ID is really about – disenfranchising potential Democratic voters, peeling off those couple of percentage points on Election Day. There is no better evidence of this than the fact that many of the voter ID laws – including S.C.'s – do not accept a college student photo ID, even if it is issued by a state institution. Why no college student IDs? We got the answer in a video – which Stephen Colbert shared with the nation – of New Hampshire Republican House Speaker William O'Brien describing “liberal” students who must not be allowed to vote with their college IDs. (The bill passed the Republican legislature, but was vetoed by Democratic Gov. John Lynch.)

In S.C., as in most voter ID states, the new law calls for registered voters without a driver's license to go the Department of Motor Vehicles to have their photo ID made. Yet GOPers are betting it is going to be an imposition on many poor and elderly people to get to DMV without reliable transportation. It will be such an imposition that they will just drop off the voter rolls and out of the electoral process. That is the two percent the Republicans are trying to peel off.

And yet, as cynical as Republicans have shown themselves to be with their new voter ID law, they have actually trumped themselves with another bill, which Gov. Nikki Haley recently signed. The law allows military personnel to fax and email their ballots in from anywhere around the world and it eliminates a witness requirement for write-in ballots. As the Post and Courier points out, our GOP legislature seems quite unconcerned about fraud among this heavily Republican group of voters.

According to the S.C. League of Women Voters, some 180,000 voters may be disenfranchised by the state's new voter ID law. And who are those voters? We got a glimpse into that community a couple of weeks ago with a Post and Courier story about area public transportation. There are 19,439 households without a car – and presumably, without a driver's license – in Charleston, North Charleston and Summerville. Needless to say, they are overwhelmingly poor and black.

“These are our neighbors. These are people who live among us, who work beside us,” S.C. ACLU Executive Director Victoria Middleton said. “Is that really what we want our General Assembly doing to our electoral system?”

Somebody thinks so. But don't be fooled. The next time a Republican tries to tell you that we need voter ID to protect the sanctity of the electoral process, just take a page from Rep. Joe Wilson's text, look the GOPer in the eye and say, “You lie!”

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

City Council Citizen Safety Squad

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. 

- Benjamin Franklin

Opinion by Samantha Norton

It’s profound statement by one of our greatest founding fathers and one that I took to heart with the passage of the Patriot Act and the rise of the TSA. But as much as I think about that quote in terms of the Federal government, recently I have taken to applying that quote to the recent developments in the City of Columbia.

As has been previously editorialized in CCP (some of it by me) the City of Columbia has a problem with crimes being committed in our “hospitality districts” - namely Five Points. Feeling the need justify their paychecks, the Columbia City Council has developed and passed more and more unnecessary and draconian measures in response to this criminal activity.

Their newest series of plans involve increased CCTV cameras in Five Points and what The State describes as a “Hospitality Squad”. Both will be damaging to our liberty (both socially and economically) as well as our checkbooks (someone will have to pay for new government services and as the debt crisis has showed us the money government spends doesn’t grow on trees.)

Let us first address CCTV. The plan to put in place more security cameras will run the City of Columbia $100,000. The $100,000 appears to be a one time cost for the purchase and installation of the additional cameras and supporting equipment. From what I can gather, this figure does not contemplate the reoccurring expenses the new cameras will incur in the form of the additional staff and training required to utilize them. And those expenses will continue into the foreseeable future.

What do we get with the installation of these ADDITIONAL cameras? (clearly the problem with crime in Five Points is just not enough cameras) The cameras are claimed to be excellent both in preventing crime and in helping to solve crimes‚ crimes the cameras were apparently unable to prevent in the first place. And what do we have to give up in exchange for this increased surveillance of our citizenry, 99% of whom are law abiding citizens?  Our privacy. We give up our ability to conduct our daily lives without someone watching and recording our every move. Yes, we don’t have a right to privacy in a public setting, but why would we ever allow our elected officials to permanently decrease our privacy? Oh that’s right, increased safety.

I hate to break it to the City of Columbia, but as much as I love the city it’s not cutting edge and I don’t think a time will come that it will be. Not a bad thing at all, but what it means is that by the time our City Council gets around to doing something it’s already been setup and tested somewhere else.

In this case it’s England. Since the mid-1990’s municipalities in England have spent BILLIONS installing CCTV cameras in a country about the size of Alabama. In fact England has more than 20 per cent of the world’s CCTV cameras and has had them in place for a while. In London the average person is spied on by CCTV roughly 300 times a day.

So what has this 1984-like surveillance done to prevent and solve crime? Little to nothing. There are plenty of articles discussing the ineffectiveness of their grand system; feel free to look them up for yourself. Perhaps the most damning was a study conducted at the English government’s request by a professor of criminology at the University of Leicester. The professor looked at 14 surveillance systems around England and found that in only one of the 14 areas could a drop in crime levels be linked to CCTV.  Now mind you this is a place that has cornered the market of CCTV and even there it’s useless. How useful is it going to be when manned by people only trained on the system for a few months?

City Council is going to spend hundreds of thousands of your tax dollars to make you feel safe, not actually make you safe and in return you will give up your privacy. Sounds like and awesome trade.

Well while you ponder that lets move onto the “Hospitality Squad”. So there is a crime problem in our bar districts, what should we do?

Step one: a curfew! Check.

Step two: mandatory 2am bar closings! Check.

Step three: more CCTV cameras!

Step four: a “task force” consisting of two units each with a cop, a license inspector, a zoning inspector and and a fire martial which will simultaneously serve Five Points, the Vista, Main Street and the Harbison area. What?!?!?!?!

How is this going to reduce crime? What they propose is a task force that only contains three cops (one of which is a supervisor). Inspectors on the task force teams outnumber police three to one. Clearly, there is something else going on here, but I can only speculate at this time. The quotes from a recent article in The State on the subject are at best suspicious.

So lets go through this again. First, there is this crime problem and second, hotel owners are complaining that cops don’t show good discretion in their establishments when responding to calls and this drives off business. And what they came up with was this “task force”. Now it seems like the two non-supervisory officers in the task force are going to be specially trained to be super discrete when responding to calls from hotels about dead hookers and the like. (This clues me into the fact that the city considers the average police officer too dumb to accomplish the task, even with special training in how to not be a loud asshole.)

What it comes down to is that the city will be paying two cops who are dedicated to maintaining the illusion of safety for hotel guests regardless of whether they are or not. How is this going to protect me when I am walking back to my car after having a late night beer with a friend in Five Points? How are these two cops going to protect me as well as protect the patrons of Main Street, the Vista and Harbison? Are they going to be manufactured by Omni Consumer Products? How will two licensing inspectors or a fire inspector protect me from being mugged? I mean there are literally thousands of questions I could ask that have no sufficient answer. Another good one is why are two additional fire inspectors needed to exclusively monitor buildings in bar districts?

But, the huge question that keeps rattling around in my brain is “Why have certain business groups supported this?” What benefit are two cops and a bunch of inspectors going to add that ultimately increases their profits? Businesses exist to make money; if they are supporting this laughable task force then somehow it must support their monitory interests. I can’t imagine the task force will provide enough of a presence to make their customers happier or feel safer thereby increasing profits. The only thing that jumps up at me is that a group of business who know they are up to code want to drum out competition that isn’t up to code. It’s the only logical reason for them to support this task force or even for this task force to be created. I am curious to see what transpires over the coming months.

I hate to beat a dead horse, but the way to stop this crime problem is to get more warm bodies on the streets in the places crime is occurring when crime is occurring. In reality they don’t have to even be police officers. Some cities have unarmed but uniformed city employees who provide general assistance to citizens in the area they patrol be it answering questions about parking or the location of local businesses to radioing to police when they see trouble. How many of these people would be required to effectively aid the police and reduce crime in the bar districts? My guess would be five to ten. I am pretty sure that could be accomplished for less than the almost $800,000 in “safety” programs the city is proposing (the task force will run $671,000).

In essence the Columbia City Council has repeatedly been asking us to give up bits of our liberty to purchase what they claim will be increased safety. If we allow them to continue we deserve what we get.  

Make sure our city coucil

members are safe!

  Take surveillance video in front of their homes and email to for a chance to win $100.


Belinda Gergel

1915 Pendleton Street


Sam Davis

950 Rosedale Arch


Tameika Isaac Devine

3100 Lake Wood Ave


Brian Newman

2144 Walter Salaman Way


Leona Plaugh

73 Somerton Place


Daniel Rickenmann

4203 Woodlegh Road


Please stay off private property and do not harass your public servants.  The best 60 second safety video in front of a council member’s home will win $100. 

The publisher will select one winner on October 14, and the prize will be awarded within two weeks if the winning contestant provides name, address and payment information. All video formats are accepted and entries should be emailed to:



You will go from folding chinos for the Banana Republic to folding dolla dolla bills for me. That’s what I call job creation, bitches.


While painting your toenails, you will realize you don’t give a fuck about a grocery tax.



You will have a dream in which you show up to the polls naked. In the dream, the poll workers begin to grope you and then stop when they realize you don’t have your voter registration card.



You fail to get serious and be nice in the seventh grade. The rest of your life will be shit. Nice job Fuck-o.



You will refuse an offer for the Vice Presidency because you just can’t do it like Dick did it. He did it sooooo good.



You will just start dancing one day and you won’t stop. People will begin to talk and your name will spread all the way to the great hills of North Carolina.



You will accidentally identify yourself as white on your voter registration. Don’t worry. You’ll still remember to tell brown people you’re brown when you’re campaigning for their votes.



While making out with your cousin at a family reunion, you will finally learn what true love is.



You will cause Jesus and Waheguru to get into an epic brawl for your immortal soul. Lasers will be blasted. Fireballs will be thrown. At the end of the day, the only man left standing will be Joseph Smith.



The ghost of Strom Thurmond will feel you up at a séance and you will weirdly like it.



The Free Will Baptist Church picnic just won’t be the same without Pastor Dale, this year. The kids loved him!



You will be jailed and remanded to foster care for hanging out at Five Points after curfew. Your real parents won’t care. They just want you to be safe.     *Haleyscopes are not really written by Governor Haley

No Impact Man Impacts USC Students

By Judit Trunkos

Colin Beavan’s book “No Impact Man” published in 2009 started out as a local environmental experiment but turned into a global movement.  For an entire year, Beavan lived in his New York City apartment with his wife and daughter without the comforts and luxuries of wasteful modern life only to find that he achieved no impact on the environment and as a side effect, he improved his own health and became a happier person.

This year USC’s selected book for the first year reading experience was “No Impact Man” and the students were fortunate enough to have the author,  Mr. Beavan speak about his book, movie and his philosophy. Sustainable Carolina at the Learning Center for Sustainable Futures hosted Mr. Beavan for a brief Q &A about his work on Monday, August 15th.

According to the organization, the mission was: “to empower citizens to make choices which better their lives and lower their environmental impact through lifestyle change, community action, and participation in environmental politics.”

The surprising findings of the Beavan experiment though was that by cutting out waste and many luxury items from his life, such as processed food, sodas and plastic bottles, TV and taxi cabs, Beavan actually improved his own life.

When asked about what is it that the individuals should do to live a more sustainable life, Beavan responded: “Living environmentally is content specific. What you can do is specific to who you are. To give up coffee, for instance, is a problem for some but not for everyone.”

Environmental issues and the lack of sustainable lifestyle in our modern makes more people realize the problem and begin to look for their own solutions.  Beavan mentioned a few examples of community action.

“Some universities have big gardens or renewable energy systems or waste water system where the marsh cleans the water. Other Universities have buffets and they removed the trays so students can only carry what they can hold. This simple action helps reducing food waste and help with the freshman ten problem. In order to get more food, students must stand up and get it.” Explained Beavan.

Further, Beavan continued the casual meeting with students with a Matrix-like question: “How many of you think there is something wrong?” Everyone raised their hands in the room.

“So we have to ask ourselves what we can do to fix it?” responded Beavan to his question.

Beavan’s call for collective action for change of lifestyle was heard not only in this room, but all around the world as “No Impact Man” was translated into numerous languages.

“No Impact Project” mission is to use media and technology to make happier people. All programs are to engage people not to educate. The people must know how to get engaged how to get involved. Explained the author.

The No Impact Experiment is a one-week carbon cleanse.  It is a chance to see what a difference no-impact living can have on the quality of life. It’s not about giving up creature comforts but an opportunity to test whether the modern “conveniences” of life are actually making us happier. So far, 48,000 people have participated in this challenge all around the world including in Australia, Netherlands and in China just to mention a few.

 “I do not have an answer to what should we do? It is more like what you can do! My job is to ask everyone to follow our passion. Follow out true direction! Everyone should be recognized for what is special about them as they contribute to society.” Said Beavan.

While the Beavans saved the world from 2190 paper and plastic cups, 572 plastic bags and 4380 gallons of garbage during that one year, they also showed the world that it was possible to unplug from mainstream lifestyle and that our happiness does not depend on it.

To learn more about “No Impact Project” visit

Is college worth it?

 The truth is that a college education is a massive gamble.  For millions of Americans it works out well, but millions of other college graduates have found themselves completely unable to get a quality job in this economy and yet they are still trapped in a nightmare of student loan debt from which there is no escape.  Millions of young Americans have discovered that they have become “indentured servants” the moment they graduate.  The entire system encourages our young people to take out whatever college loans they “need” without worrying how they will pay them back because a college education is such a good “investment”.  Once upon a time, a college education was actually an almost automatic ticket to the middle class.  Today, a college education does not guarantee you anything, but for millions of Americans it does turn out to be an automatic ticket to student loan hell.

It has been an open secret for decades that college is one big joke.  But at least a college degree could get you a job.

Now that a college degree won’t open the same doors that it used to, is college really worth it?

The following is what PIMCO’s Bill Gross had to say about the pathetic state of college education in America in one of his recent newsletters.....

All of us who have been there know an undergraduate education is primarily a four year vacation interrupted by periodic bouts of cramming or Google plagiarizing, but at least it used to serve a purpose. It weeded out underachievers and proved at a minimum that you could pass an SAT test. For those who made it to the good schools, it proved that your parents had enough money to either bribe administrators or hire SAT tutors to increase your score by 500 points. And a degree represented that the graduate could “party hearty” for long stretches of time and establish social networking skills that would prove invaluable later on at office cocktail parties or interactively via Facebook. College was great as long as the jobs were there.

It wouldn’t be so bad if college was not so darn expensive.  Tuition alone at many schools is 30, 40 or even 50 thousand dollars a year.

According to recent Pew Research Center polling, 75% of Americans believe that college is too expensive for most Americans to afford.

For many American families with multiple children, the cost of college education is absolutely staggering.  The following is an excerpt from an article recently posted on CNN....

As far as raising teenagers goes, Wade and Julie Scheckla can’t complain. The California couple’s oldest daughter, Paige, 19, is an honors student heading into her junior year at the University of California at Los Angeles, while 17-year-old Brett and 14-year-old Kennedy are straight-A students and standout athletes.

With high-achieving kids, however, comes a college-funding triple threat: Two years down and seven more to go, with at least three years of tuition-bill overlap.

The tab, all payable within a decade, could easily exceed $300,000.


The entire system is breaking down.  There is no way that the status quo is sustainable.  Most families can’t afford to shell out that kind of money.

Is college worth it?  Just consider the following statistics about how much debt our young Americans are going into just to get an “education”....

#1 According to the Student Loan Debt Clock, total student loan debt in the United States will surpass the 1 trillion dollar mark in early 2012.

#2 Total student loan debt in the United States is increasing by approximately $2854 every single second.

#3 The average college student now leaves school with $24,000 in student loan debt.

#4 Approximately two-thirds of all college students graduate with student loans.

#5 The total amount of student loan debt in the United States now exceeds the total amount of credit card debt in the United States.

#6 Over the past 25 years, the cost of college tuition has increased at an average rate that is approximately 6% higher than the general rate of inflation.

#7 Back in 1952, a full year of tuition at Harvard was only $600. Today, it is $35,568.

#8 Average yearly tuition at U.S. private universities is now up to $27,293.  That has increased by 29% in just the past five years.

#9 The cost of college textbooks has tripled over the past decade.

#10 Since 1978, the cost of college tuition in the United States has gone up by over 900 percent.

#11 One survey found that 23 percent of college students actually use credit cards to pay for tuition or fees.

Sadly, the quality of the education that our young people are receiving in return is absolutely pathetic.

Personally, I spent a total of 8 years attending universities in the United States.  I saw first hand what a joke most college courses are.

The truth is that things have gotten so bad that the family dog might just be able to pass most college courses in the United States today.

In a previous article I authored entitled “Student Loan Debt Hell: 21 Statistics That Will Make You Think Twice About Going To College”, I noted many statistics that seem to indicate that the quality of college education in the United States has declined dramatically.  The following are a few of those statistics....

- The typical U.S. college student spends less than 30 hours a week on academics.

- According to very extensive research detailed in a new book entitled “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses”, 45 percent of U.S. college students exhibit “no significant gains in learning” after two years in college.

- Today, college students spend approximately 50% less time studying than U.S. college students did just a few decades ago.

- 35% of U.S. college students spend 5 hours or less studying per week.

- 50% of U.S. college students have never taken a class where they had to write more than 20 pages.

- 32% of U.S. college students have never taken a class where they had to read more than 40 pages in a week.

- U.S. college students spend 24% of their time sleeping, 51% of their time socializing and 7% of their time studying.

- Federal statistics reveal that only 36 percent of the full-time students who began college in 2001 received a bachelor’s degree within four years.

Pretty depressing, eh?

A college education may not be what it once was, but it is a great way to get into massive amounts of debt.

Unfortunately, most of our young people are never told that student loan debt is nearly impossible to escape from.

According to Stephen Lendman, changes in recent years have made student loans one of the cruelest forms of debt....

Congress ended bankruptcy protections, refinancing rights, statutes of limitations, truth in lending requirements, fair debt collection ones, and state usury laws when applied to federally guaranteed student loans. As a result, lenders may freely garnish wages, income tax refunds, earned income tax credits, and Social Security and disability income to assure defaulted loan payments. In addition, defaulting may cause loss of professional licenses, making repayment even harder or impossible.

Sadly, millions of recent college graduates that are drowning in student loan debt can’t even get good enough jobs that will enable them to service those loans.  Just consider the following statistics....

1) According to the Economic Policy Institute, the unemployment rate for college graduates younger than 25 years old was 9.3 percent in 2010.

2) One-third of all college graduates end up taking jobs that don’t even require college degrees.

3) In the United States today, over 18,000 parking lot attendants have college degrees.

4) In the United States today, 317,000 waiters and waitresses have college degrees.

5) In the United States today, approximately 365,000 cashiers have college degrees.

6) In the United States today, 24.5 percent of all retail salespersons have a college degree.

The truth is that there are not nearly enough jobs for everyone.  There are now more hard working Americans sitting at home without jobs than at any other point since the Great Depression.  A recent article authored by Mortimer Zuckerman for made this point beautifully....

Today, over 14 million people are unemployed. We now have more idle men and women than at any time since the Great Depression. Nearly seven people in the labor pool compete for every job opening. Hiring announcements have plunged to 10,248 in May, down from 59,648 in April. Hiring is now 17 percent lower than the lowest level in the 2001-02 downturn. One fifth of all men of prime working age are not getting up and going to work. Equally disturbing is that the number of people unemployed for six months or longer grew 361,000 to 6.2 million, increasing their share of the unemployed to 45.1 percent.

So in light of all this, is college really worth it?

For some fields, a college degree is absolutely necessary.  That doesn’t mean that a job will be there when you graduate, but if you are determined to work in a field where a college degree is 100% required, then it might be a gamble you are willing to take.

However, for millions of others young Americans college is simply not worth it.

There are literally millions of disillusioned young college graduates out there today.  Large numbers of them are living back at home with their parents.  Many of them have fallen into deep depression.

As a recent article on noted, an increasing number of our young people (especially our young men) are just “checking out” and giving up hope....

While the majority of young men are getting through school, finding work and eventually raising families, there is evidence of rising numbers who are dropping out of school, not looking for work, endlessly playing video games, even living at home in their parents’ basements.

For much more on the state of college education in the United States, check out a new YouTube video entitled “College Conspiracy”.

It is an hour long video but it is really worth watching.  You can view the video on YouTube right here.

What is perhaps one of the saddest things of all is that our colleges and universities are all about training our young people to become part of the “system”.  Most parents have no idea how much indoctrination goes on inside college classrooms. In a previous article, I described what I saw during my 8 years at American universities....

Another open secret is that most of our colleges and universities are little more than indoctrination centers.  Most people would be absolutely shocked at how much unfiltered propaganda is being pounded into the heads of our young people.

At most colleges and universities, when it comes to the “big questions” there is a “right answer” and there is virtually no discussion of any other alternatives.

In most fields there is an “orthodoxy” that you had better adhere to if you want to get good grades.

Let’s just say that “independent thought” and “critical thinking” are not really encouraged at most of our institutions of higher learning.

The reality is that college is a very expensive joke.  It is a 4 (or 5 or 6) year vacation away from reality.  If you can ignore all of the establishment propaganda that they try to pound into your head, it can be a lot of fun.

However, if you have to take out loans, going to college can be an incredibly painful financial decision as well.

Article by Michael of

Student loan hell

21 Statistics That Will Make You Think Twice About Going To College

Is going to college a worthwhile investment?  Is the education that our young people are receiving at our colleges and universities really worth all of the time, money and effort that is required?  Decades ago, a college education was quite inexpensive and it was almost an automatic ticket to the middle class.  But today all of that has changed.  At this point, college education is a big business.  There are currently more than 18 million students enrolled at the nearly 5,000 colleges and universities currently in operation throughout the United States.  There are quite a few “institutions of higher learning” that now charge $40,000 or even $50,000 a year for tuition.  That does not even count room and board and other living expenses.  Meanwhile, as you will see from the statistics posted below, the quality of education at our colleges and universities has deteriorated badly.  When graduation finally arrives, many of our college students have actually learned very little, they find themselves unable to get good jobs and yet they end up trapped in student loan debt hell for essentially the rest of their lives.

Across America today, “guidance counselors” are pushing millions of high school students to go to the very best colleges that they can get into, but they rarely warn them about how much it is going to cost or about the sad reality that they could end up being burdened by massive debt loads for decades to come.

Yes, college is a ton of fun and it is a really unique experience.  If you can get someone else to pay for it then you should definitely consider going. There are also many careers which absolutely require a college degree.  Depending on your career goals, you may not have much of a choice of whether to go to college or not.

But that doesn’t mean that you have to go to student loan debt hell.

You don’t have to go to the most expensive school that you can get into.You don’t have to take out huge student loans.There is no shame in picking a school based on affordability.

The truth is that pretty much wherever you go to school the quality of the education is going to be rather pathetic.  A highly trained cat could pass most college courses in the United States today.

Personally, I have had the chance to spend quite a number of years on college campuses.  I enjoyed my time and I have some pretty pieces of parchment to put up on the wall.  I have seen with my own eyes what goes on at our institutions of higher learning.  In a previous article, I described what life is like for most “average students” enrolled in our colleges and universities today....

The vast majority of college students in America spend two to four hours a day in the classroom and maybe an hour or two outside the classroom studying. The remainder of the time these “students” are out drinking beer, partying, chasing after sex partners, going to sporting events, playing video games, hanging out with friends, chatting on Facebook or getting into trouble. When they say that college is the most fun that most people will ever have in their lives they mean it. It is basically one huge party.

If you are a parent and you are shelling out tens of thousands of dollars every year to pay for college you need to know the truth.

You are being ripped off.

Sadly, a college education just is not that good of an investment anymore.  Tuition costs have absolutely skyrocketed even as the quality of education has plummeted.

A college education is not worth getting locked into crippling student loan payments for the next 30 years.

Even many university professors are now acknowledging that student loan debt has become a horrific societal problem. Just check out what one professor was quoted as saying in a recent article in The Huffington Post....

“Thirty years ago, college was a wise, modest investment,” says Fabio Rojas, a professor of sociology at Indiana University. He studies the politics of higher education. “Now, it’s a lifetime lock-in, an albatross you can’t escape.”

Anyone that is thinking of going to college needs to do a cost/benefit analysis.

Is it really going to be worth it?

For some people the answer will be “yes” and for some people the answer will be “no”.

But sadly, hardly anyone that goes to college these days gets a “good” education.

To get an idea of just how “dumbed down” we have become as a nation, just check out this Harvard entrance exam from 1869.

I wouldn’t have a prayer of passing that exam. What about you?

We really do need to rethink our approach to higher education in this country.

Posted below are 21 statistics about college tuition, student loan debt and the quality of college education in the United States....

#1 Since 1978, the cost of college tuition in the United States has gone up by over 900 percent.

#2 In 2010, the average college graduate had accumulated approximately $25,000 in student loan debt by graduation day.

#3 Approximately two-thirds of all college students graduate with student loans.

#4 Americans have accumulated well over $900 billion in student loan debt. That figure is higher than the total amount of credit card debt in the United States.

#5 The typical U.S. college student spends less than 30 hours a week on academics.

#6 According to very extensive research detailed in a new book entitled “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses”, 45 percent of U.S. college students exhibit “no significant gains in learning” after two years in college.

#7 Today, college students spend approximately 50% less time studying than U.S. college students did just a few decades ago.

#8 35% of U.S. college students spend 5 hours or less studying per week.

#9 50% of U.S. college students have never taken a class where they had to write more than 20 pages.

#10 32% of U.S. college students have never taken a class where they had to read more than 40 pages in a week.

#11 U.S. college students spend 24% of their time sleeping, 51% of their time socializing and 7% of their time studying.

#12 Federal statistics reveal that only 36 percent of the full-time students who began college in 2001 received a bachelor’s degree within four years.

#13 Nearly half of all the graduate science students enrolled at colleges and universities in the United States are foreigners.

#14 According to the Economic Policy Institute, the unemployment rate for college graduates younger than 25 years old was 9.3 percent in 2010.

#15 One-third of all college graduates end up taking jobs that don’t even require college degrees.

#16 In the United States today, over 18,000 parking lot attendants have college degrees.

#17 In the United States today, 317,000 waiters and waitresses have college degrees.

#18 In the United States today, approximately 365,000 cashiers have college degrees.

#19 In the United States today, 24.5 percent of all retail salespersons have a college degree.

#20 Once they get out into the “real world”, 70% of college graduates wish that they had spent more time preparing for the “real world” while they were still in school.

#21 Approximately 14 percent of all students that graduate with student loan debt end up defaulting within 3 years of making their first student loan payment.

There are millions of young college graduates running around out there that are wondering where all of the “good jobs” are.  All of their lives they were promised that if they worked really hard and got good grades that the system would reward them.

Sometimes when you do everything right you still can’t get a job. A while back The Huffington Post featured the story of Kyle Daley - a highly qualified UCLA graduate who had been unemployed for 19 months at the time....

I spent my time at UCLA preparing for the outside world. I had internships in congressional offices, political action committees, non-profits and even as a personal intern to a successful venture capitalist. These weren’t the run-of-the-mill office internships; I worked in marketing, press relations, research and analysis. Additionally, the mayor and city council of my hometown appointed me to serve on two citywide governing bodies, the planning commission and the open government commission. I used to think that given my experience, finding work after graduation would be easy.

At this point, however, looking for a job is my job. I recently counted the number of job applications I have sent out over the past year -- it amounts to several hundred. I have tried to find part-time work at local stores or restaurants, only to be turned away. Apparently, having a college degree implies that I might bail out quickly when a better opportunity comes along.

The sad truth is that a college degree is not an automatic ticket to the middle class any longer.

But for millions of young Americans a college degree is an automatic ticket to student loan debt hell.

Student loan debt is one of the most insidious forms of debt.  You can’t get away from student loan debt no matter what you do.  Federal bankruptcy law makes it nearly impossible to discharge student loan debts, and many recent grads end up with loan payments that absolutely devastate them financially at a time when they are struggling to get on their feet and make something of themselves.

So are you still sure that you want to go to college?

Another open secret is that most of our colleges and universities are little more than indoctrination centers.  Most people would be absolutely shocked at how much unfiltered propaganda is being pounded into the heads of our young people.

At most colleges and universities, when it comes to the “big questions” there is a “right answer” and there is virtually no discussion of any other alternatives.

In most fields there is an “orthodoxy” that you had better adhere to if you want to get good grades.

Let’s just say that “independent thought” and “critical thinking” are not really encouraged at most of our institutions of higher learning.

Am I bitter because I didn’t do well?  No, I actually did extremely well in school.  I have seen the system from the inside.  I know how it works.

It is a giant fraud.

If you want to go to college because you want to have a good time or because it will help you get your career started then by all means go for it.

Just realize what you are signing up for.

Article by of Michael at

Movie Times for weekend of Friday, August 26

The Big Mo
Monetta Drive-In Theatre Monetta SC (803)685-7949
Aug. 26,27,28
Screen 1
Spy Kids

Screen 2
Final Dest. 5
Fright Night
Screen 3
Planet of the Apes
Conan the barbarian

Nickeloden Theatre
937 Main Street, Columbia, SC 29210

Friday, August 26th - 6:00PM ONLY
Saturday, August 27th - 3:00PM and 6:00PM
Sunday, August 28th - 3:00PM and 6:00PM
Monday, August 29th - 6:00PM ONLY
Tuesday, August 30th - 6:00PM ONLY
Wednesday, August 31st - 6:00PM ONLY
Thursday, September 1st - 6:00PM ONLY

Regal Columbia Cinema 7
3400 Forest Drive Suite 3000, Columbia, SC 29204

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark  (R) new!
2:20 4:50 7:40 10:10
Our Idiot Brother  (R) new!
2:45 5:00 7:20 9:50
30 Minutes or Less  (R)
2:10 4:15 7:10 10:00
Rise of the Planet of the Apes  (PG-13)
2:00 2:35 4:30 5:05 7:00 7:35 9:45 10:15
Crazy, Stupid, Love  (PG-13)
2:05 4:45 7:30 10:20
The Smurfs  (PG)
2:15 4:40 7:05 9:35

Carmike Wynnsong 10
5320 Forest Drive, Columbia, SC 29206

Colombiana  (PG-13) new!
1:10 4:00 7:10 9:50
Conan the Barbarian  (R) new!
1:00 4:00
Conan the Barbarian 3D  (R) new!
7:00 9:45
Fright Night  (R) new!
1:45 4:45
Fright Night 3D  (R) new!
Digital 3D
7:20 10:05
One Day  (PG-13) new!
1:15 4:10 7:15 10:00
Spy Kids: All the Time in the World  (PG) new!
12:45 4:20
Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D (3D)  (PG) new!
Digital 3D
6:45 9:05
Final Destination 5  (R)
1:30 4:30 7:15 9:45
Final Destination 5 3D  (R)
Digital 3D
1:00 4:00 6:45 9:10
The Help  (PG-13)
1:20 5:00 8:30
The Change-Up  (R)
1:05 4:05 6:50 9:30
Captain America: The First Avenger  (PG-13)
7:10 10:05
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2  (PG-13)
12:50 4:10

Regal Columbiana Grande Stadium 14
1250 Bwer Pkwy, Columbia, SC 29212
8:30 9:15 10:45

Colombiana  (PG-13) new!
12:15 2:45 5:25 7:55 10:25
Conan the Barbarian  (R) new!
12:10 2:40 5:15 7:50 10:30
Conan the Barbarian 3D  (R) new!
1:40 4:40 7:20 10:00
Fright Night  (R) new!
12:30 3:00 5:30 8:00 10:40
Fright Night 3D  (R) new!
12:00 2:30 5:00 7:30 10:10
One Day  (PG-13) new!
11:50am 2:20 4:55 7:25 9:55
Spy Kids: All the Time in the World  (PG) new!
2:15 7:00
Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D (3D)  (PG) new!
12:05 4:30 9:10
Final Destination 5  (R)
2:35 7:05
Final Destination 5 3D  (R)

12:20 1:00 3:15 4:50 5:35 7:45 9:20 10:20
Glee the 3D Concert Movie  (PG)
Digital 3D
12:45 2:50 5:20 7:35 9:50
The Help  (PG-13)
12:50 1:20 4:00 4:25 7:10 7:40 10:15 10:45
The Change-Up  (R)
11:55am 2:25 5:05 8:05 10:35
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2  (PG-13)
1:50 5:10 8:15

Carmike 14
122 Afton Court, Clumbia, SC 29212

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark  (R) new!
2:10 4:40 7:30 10:00
Our Idiot Brother  (R) new!
2:00 4:30 7:00 9:30
30 Minutes or Less  (R)
1:50 4:50 7:20 9:35
Rise of the Planet of the Apes  (PG-13)
1:15 2:15 3:50 5:00 7:10 8:50 9:50
Cowboys & Aliens  (PG-13)
1:05 4:00 6:50 9:40
Crazy, Stupid, Love  (PG-13)
1:10 4:05 6:55 9:45
The Smurfs 3D  (PG)
Digital 3D
1:00 3:45 6:20 8:45
The Smurfs  (PG)
1:35 4:20 6:50 9:15
Captain America: The First Avenger  (PG-13)
1:20 4:10 7:00 9:45
Captain America: The First Avenger 3D  (PG-13)
Digital 3D
1:00 3:45 6:35 9:25
Cars 2  (G)
1:25 4:00 6:35 9:10
Midnight in Paris  (PG-13)
1:45 4:15 6:40 9:20
Bridesmaids  (R)
1:30 5:10 9:00

Regal Pastime Pavilin 8       929 North Lake Drive, Lexingtn, SC 29072
Colombiana  (PG-13) new!
1:30 4:40 7:50 10:20
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark  (R) new!
1:10 4:20 7:10 9:30
Our Idiot Brother  (R) new!
1:50 5:00 7:30 9:50
Conan the Barbarian  (R) new!
2:00 4:30
Conan the Barbarian 3D  (R) new!
7:20 10:00
Fright Night  (R) new!
1:20 5:10
Fright Night 3D  (R) new!
7:35 9:55
Spy Kids: All the Time in the World  (PG) new!
1:05 4:50 7:00 9:40
The Help  (PG-13)
1:00 4:15 7:15 10:10
Rise of the Planet of the Apes  (PG-13)
1:40 5:15 7:40 10:15

Regal Sandhill Stadium 16
450 Town Center Place, Columbia, SC 29229
Colombiana  (PG-13) new!
12:00 2:35 5:10 7:50 10:35
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark  (R) new!
12:30 2:55 5:30 8:10 10:40
Our Idiot Brother  (R) new!
12:50 3:00 5:25 8:00 10:20
Conan the Barbarian  (R) new!
11:50am 5:05
Conan the Barbarian 3D  (R) new!
2:25 7:45 10:25
Fright Night  (R) new!
12:10 5:10
Fright Night 3D  (R) new!
2:40 7:40 10:15
One Day  (PG-13) new!
1:05 4:20 7:10 9:50
Spy Kids: All the Time in the World  (PG) new!
2:35 7:20
Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D (3D)  (PG) new!
12:20 4:55 9:40
30 Minutes or Less  (R)
12:40 2:45 5:25 8:15 10:25
Final Destination 5 3D  (R)
12:35 2:50 5:15 8:05 10:35
The Help  (PG-13)
12:45 3:40 4:10 7:30 10:15 10:45
Open Captioned
12:15 7:00
Rise of the Planet of the Apes  (PG-13)
11:55am 12:25 2:20 2:50 4:50 5:20 7:25 7:55 10:00 10:30
Cowboys & Aliens  (PG-13)
1:00 4:00 7:15 10:10
Crazy, Stupid, Love  (PG-13)
7:05 9:55

The Smurfs 3D  (PG)

The Smurfs  (PG)
2:30 5:00 7:35 10:05
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2  (PG-13)
12:55 3:50
Horrible Bosses  (R)
12:15 2:45 5:15 7:45 10:15

Zookeeper  (PG)
11:30am 12:00 2:00 2:30 4:30 5:00 7:00 7:30 9:30 10:00

Larry Crowne  (PG-13)
11:50am 2:15 4:55 7:20 9:50

Monte Carlo  (PG)
11:35am 2:10 4:45 7:25 10:05

Transformers: Dark of the Moon  (PG-13)
12:10 12:55 3:35 4:25 7:05 7:55 10:35 11:25

Transformers: Dark of the Moon 3D  (PG-13)
11:40am 12:35 1:20 3:10 4:05 4:50 6:40 7:35 8:20 10:10 11:05 11:50

Bad Teacher (R)
12:20 2:40 5:20 8:00 10:25

Cars 2 (G)
12:05 2:35 5:05 7:40 10:20

Cars 2 3D (G)
11:35am 2:05 4:35 7:10

Green Lantern (PG-13)
2:25 7:50

Green Lantern 3D (PG-13)
11:45am 5:10 10:30

Mr. Popper’s Penguins (PG)
11:55am 2:20 4:40

Super 8 (PG-13)
7:15 9:55

The Hangover Part II (R)9:45pm

Midnight in Paris (PG-13)11:30am 1:55 4:20 6:55 9:40

Candidates Increasingly Connected to Supposedly Independent PACs

by Braden Goyette ProPublica

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="President Barack Obama greets people as he arrives for a town-hall-style meeting on Aug. 15, 2011 in Decorah, Iowa. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)"][/caption]

It looks like most of the 2012 presidential hopefuls have one thing in common: They have close ties to the people who run some so-called Super PACs.Those are the new-fangled PACs that are allowed to raise unlimited money and can run ads supporting or attacking candidates, but are also supposed to operate independently of candidates. As the New York Times detailed [1] Sunday, those lines are increasingly being blurred:

The groups are typically founded by the candidates' former aides, financed by the candidates' top donors and implicitly blessed by the candidates themselves. And they are quickly beginning to rival the candidates' own money operations in size and scope, setting off a fund-raising arms race that is changing the way presidential campaigns are financed and executed.

As the Los Angeles Times has detailed, Democrats and Republicans have both [2] been aggressively using Super PACs. There are a number of Super PACs that support President Obama, which have raised $7.61 million altogether in the first half of this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics [3]. (For more on Super PACs and how they came to be, check out our earlier guide [4].)

Now concerns are growing about how independent Super PACs really are from the candidates they support. The New York Times notes [1] that Barack Obama, John Huntsmann and Michele Bachmann all have Super PACs run by the candidates' former aides or associates.

In June, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent out an email soliciting contributions to a Democratic Super PAC [5], with a disclaimer at the end to protect Reid from accusations of collaboration: “Senator Reid is only asking for a donation of up to $5,000 from individuals and federal PACs. He is not asking for funds from corporations, labor unions or other federally prohibited sources.” Open Secrets noted that Reid's former chief of staff and one of his long-time strategists were on the Super PAC's staff.

More recently, Mitt Romney has raised eyebrows for working closely with a Super PAC. Romney spoke at a fundraiser for the Restore Our Future PAC [1] earlier this year, leaving the room before the leaders of the group started to discuss their plans with potential donors. The Super PAC was founded by three of his former aides.

The Restore Our Future PAC also came under scrutiny when it received a $1 million donation from a company that dissolved shortly after donating [6], and listed no owner or address in its corporate records. After campaign-finance watchdog groups started calling for an FEC inquiry, former Bain Capital executive Edward Conard identified himself as the donor [7]. Romney co-founded Bain Capital in 1984 [8] and served as its CEO until 1999.

"I think the whole controversy with regards to his contribution certainly sort of disappears when he came forward and said he was the contributor,” Romney stated after Conard identified himself. “He's been a long-term business associate and friend of mine, a contributor in the past."

Some of the Super PACs supporting Texas Gov. Rick Perry are founded by people in his inner circle [9], including former Perry chief of staff Mike Toomey, who co-owns a private island with Perry's campaign manager. Dan Shelley, who used to be Perry's legislative director and now runs two pro-Perry PACs, told the Huffington Post that he hasn't talked to the Perry campaign about his work, since "that's against the law."

Perry has also faced other questions that he's getting too cozy with his big donors. This week, the Houston Chronicle reported [10] on allegations that one of Perry's big donors, Bob Perry (no relation), may have indirectly funneled $500,000 to the governor during his 2006 re-election campaign, using the Republican Governor's Association as an intermediary. If that's the case, it could be a violation of Texas campaign disclosure laws. Records of the calls became public as part of a lawsuit filed by Chris Bell, Perry's Democratic challenger in the 2006 gubernatorial race.

Under Texas law, Bob Perry was free to make unlimited contributions to Perry's campaign itself. Bell's lawyers allege that the donation was funneled through the RGA to avoid criticism, since Perry had just attacked Bell for receiving a $1 million contribution from a wealthy Texas lawyer. Perry settled with Bell [11] for $426,000 last year. Perry's campaign and the RGA both say that they did not violate Texas law.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

So how does Rick Perry get away with it?

Opinion by Will Moredock
Honestly, some weeks I don't even have to write this column. It just falls from the heavens like manna. I pick it up and post it. This was one of those weeks.
Rick Perry! The name alone is enough to elicit chuckles. Big hat. Silly boots. Cowboy swagger.
The Texas governor likes to hold stadium-sized prayer rallies in which he fills a fraction of the stadium and talks to God. Two years ago he held a rally to ask God for rain. Today, Texas still bakes in a historic drought, suggesting that if there is a god, he's got better things to do than listen to Rick Perry. Three weeks ago Perry did it again, holding a prayer rally to save the nation's economy. Two days later, Dow Jones tanked more than 600 points, inspiring late-night comedians and TV pundits to suggest that Rick Perry's prayers felt more like a curse.
When he is not talking to God, Perry is running his mouth to the craziest people in America, the tea baggers, and in 2009 he seemed to be flirting with secession -- though the word never passed his lips. Two weeks ago he was in Charleston, the site of the original secession and the beginning of the Civil War, to declare his presidential intentions. Was this coincidence?
Coincidence or not, it has been like catnip to pundits and columnists. Writing in U.S. News &World Report Robert Schlesinger said, “And while talking about secession undoubtedly plays well among the 3 in 10 Texas voters ill-informed enough to think it's a serious political statement, it also makes the rest of the country (and likely the rest of the state) roll our eyes in bewilderment at the Lone Star Clown.”
True enough, but Perry knows where his natural base is and the Lone Star Clown is already planning a bus tour of the Palmetto State. I am confident he will get the welcome he came for. But what does that say about the people of South Carolina?
At this writing Rick Perry has not been a presidential candidate for a week and he has already been caught in at least one screaming lie and one statement so outrageous that only a certified tea bagger – or South Carolina GOPer – could not be offended.
In one campaign stop he said he does not believe in man-made global climate change (as if his belief had anything to do with it) and went on to say that “hardly a day goes by” that some scientist is not caught faking data to support the global warming argument.
In fact, no scientist has been caught faking climate data and only the fools who live in the Fox News bubble could believe such a lie. But there are thousands of such people in this state and they will be laying palmetto branches in front of Rick Perry's bus.
This would also be a good place for Perry to repeat his opinion that “corporations are people,” with all the rights of humans. In this right-to-work state, with the lowest level of union membership in the nation – to say nothing of one of the lowest wage scales – this will be music to the corporate culture. What it means for people is unclear.
It will be interesting to see if Perry challenges the patriotism of native son and Fed chief Ben Bernanke while he's here. Last week he said Bernanke would be “treacherous” if he tried “printing money” to deal with the current economic crisis. He seemed to be threatening Bernanke when he said “we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas.”
I'm sure this school yard tough talk will play well in South Carolina, but I am also confident that most Americans would like a little more subtlety, a little more dignity from a man who aspires to be our president.
Leno, Letterman, Maher, Fallon and the folks at “Saturday Night Live” would love to see Rick Perry in the White House. It would mean for them the same thing it means for me: years of free material. But leading the United States of America – leading it morally and politically – is serious business. I see no evidence that Rick Perry is up to the task. And it is easy to understand why. There is little in the backward and parochial political culture of Texas that would prepare a person for running a huge and complex nation such as the United States.
Like his predecessor, George W. Bush, Perry seems already to be in over his head. He does not understand that more people are laughing at him than with him.
Perry's candidacy guarantees that we will have an exciting campaign – at least through the Republican National Convention. Let's hope it ends there.

Economic Myths: We Separate Fact From Fiction

by Michael Grabell ProPublica

With the recent Iowa straw poll [1] and President Obama's bus tour [2], Americans are hearing a cacophony of arguments about the wobbly economy. The federal stimulus package passed in 2009 was either a deficit-busting failure full of wasteful projects or an unparalleled rescue that would have been more successful if it had only been bigger. Taxes are either stifling or the lowest they've ever been. America needs to invest in infrastructure, or "infrastructure" is merely a euphemism for more government spending. So, here's our guide to the most prevalent economic myths.

1. Taxes have been going up and are high compared to levels in other countries.

The first part is wrong; the second is also wrong but contains a grain of truth.

The percentage of income that Americans spend on taxes is the lowest it's been since 1958, according an analysis by USA Today [3]. And with the exception of five years after the 1986 Tax Reform Act, the highest marginal income [4] and corporate tax rates [5] are the lowest they've been since World War II.

Federal taxes as a share of GDP are at their lowest point since 1950 [6], according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office [7]. When all taxes, including state and local, are added up, the proportion of GDP going to taxes has been essentially flat for nearly half a century, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The OECD figures also show that, as a share of GDP, taxes in the United States are lower than in most other developed nations:

The only income tax hike passed during the Obama administration was part of the health-care reform bill, through which Congress, among other things, raised the Medicare payroll tax for high earners, said Curtis Dubay, a senior tax policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation [8]. The excise tax on cigarettes [9] and other tobacco products was also raised as part of a children's health insurance bill in February 2009.

The problem, he said, is the federal corporate tax rate [10], which stands at 35 percent.

"We have the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world," Dubay said. "It's driving new investments overseas and the jobs that come with that overseas as well."

While it's true the official rate is high, few corporations pay it, said Roberton Williams of the Tax Policy Center [11].

"The effective tax rates that corporations pay actually goes down a lot with deductions and puts us closer to the middle of the pack," he said. "It complicates the tax system substantially and makes it more difficult for corporations to figure out what their taxes are."

A study he oversaw at the Congressional Budget Office [12] illustrates the point. While the United States has one of the highest tax rates for investments in machinery financed with equity (Figure 2-14), it offers a generous deduction for investments in machinery funded by debt (Figure 2-23).

2. The stimulus failed./The stimulus rescued the economy.

Neither. It clearly hasn't hauled the country back to full employment, but widely-cited economic models show it probably prevented a deeper downturn.

Many economists and nonpartisan forecasting firms have credited the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act with increasing employment by at least two million jobs [13] (see Table 8). Although the unemployment rate remains stuck at 9 percent, several economists estimate that unemployment would have been as high as 12 percent and remained high longer without the act.

One of the most prominent studies on the stimulus [14] was put out by the economists Alan Blinder and Mark Zandi in July 2010. The pair concluded that while the bank bailout and actions by the Federal Reserve had a greater impact in ending the recession, the stimulus was a critical part of the remedy. "We do not believe it a coincidence that the turnaround from recession to recovery occurred last summer, just as the ARRA was providing its maximum economic benefit," they wrote.

Other analyses have shown less of an impact—that aid for state budgets and education "funded staffing that would have occurred anyway [15]" and that the stimulus saved government jobs [16] while doing little to boost private-sector employment.

Critics say it failed because it fell short of what administration officials claimed it would do. They point to a chart, produced shortly before Obama's inauguration by two of his economic advisers, Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein, which showed that if the stimulus plan were passed, unemployment wouldn't top 8 percent [17]. But the recession turned out to be much more severe than they and blue-chip economists realized.

The goal of the stimulus "was to end the Great Recession and jumpstart our recovery," said Zandi, who has advised John McCain but has said he's a registered Democrat [18]. "It did that. It was never intended nor should it be expected to be the source of long-term growth. The plan was always to hand the baton to the private sector. And that was going smoothly until we got creamed" by the European debt crisis and rising gas prices.

3. The stimulus should have been bigger.

This is a red herring. Politically, the initial stimulus package almost certainly couldn't have been bigger because the moderate senators who provided the key votes wouldn't stomach a package over $800 billion. Indeed, late in the game, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and others were looking to trim the bill to $650 billion [19].

Regardless of the politics, many economists, including New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, insist the stimulus was too weak to deal with the crisis. Other economists, including John F. Cogan and John B. Taylor at Stanford University and the Hoover Institution, argue that the amount of stimulus spending wouldn't have mattered [20] because it mainly reduced borrowing by state and local governments rather than increasing spending. So, they contend, the predicted benefits were washed out.

In any case, the total stimulus is bigger than you might have thought. Since the Recovery Act, Congress has approved hundreds of billions of dollars in additional stimulus measures, including the renewal of unemployment benefits, this year's payroll tax cut and the extensions of the education jobs fund and the homebuyer tax credit. The total is now well over a trillion dollars.

But even that isn't sufficient knowing what we do now, according to Romer. As she recently told the Washington Post's Ezra Klein, the economy "probably needed about $2 trillion given what we were actually up against." [21]

4. The stimulus was all projects.

Nope. The Recovery Act as passed was estimated to cost about $787 billion. More than a third of that was tax cuts, [22] and another third was entitlements, such as unemployment benefits and Medicaid assistance. Of the $275 billion in spending by federal agencies, less than $200 billion was dedicated to projects [23].

The projected cost of the Recovery Act is now $830 billion [24], largely because of the qualification of more people qualifying for entitlements and the popularity of some tax credits.

5. The stimulus will have no lasting legacy.

False. It's been said that while the New Deal left behind a landscape of bridges and dams, the stimulus did little more than fill potholes and create a lot of temporary jobs. In truth, the Recovery Act provided critical funding for a number of projects that people will be able to point to generations from now.

Here are 10 significant projects, most under construction, funded by the Recovery Act:

BrightSource Ivanpah Solar Project [25]With a capacity to generate 400 megawatts, the array in the Mojave Desert will be one of the largest solar power plants in the world. Under construction; targeted for completion 2013.CA$1.6 billion loan guarantee
Caithness Shepherds Flat Wind Farm [26]At 845-megawatt capacity, it will be the largest wind farm in the world.* Under construction; expected to start commercial operation 2012.OR$1.3 billion loan guarantee
Savannah River Site Environmental Cleanup [27]Thousands of workers cleaned up radioactive waste at the Cold War nuclear plant and sealed up two reactor buildings with cement. Mostly completed 2011.SC$1.6 billion
Johnson Controls battery plant [28]The new plant is part of a $2.4 billion program [29] to create a battery industry for hybrid and electric vehicles in the United States. Completed 2011.MI$299 million
Caldecott Tunnel Fourth Bore [30]The new tunnel will ease traffic on the heavily traveled highway between Oakland and the suburbs. Under construction; targeted for completion late 2013/early 2014.CA$176 million
Cleveland Innerbelt Bridge [31]The funding is helping to replace a 50-year-old bridge in downtown Cleveland. Under construction; targeted for completion 2014.OH$79 million
Crow Creek Tribal School [32]A new K-12 school on the Sioux Tribe’s Crow Creek Reservation. Under construction; targeted for completion 2012.SD$37 million
Moynihan Station [33]A new Amtrak train hall at the site of the Beaux Arts monument James A. Farley Post Office building. Under construction; targeted for completion 2016.NY$83 million
Coast Guard headquarters [34]The first phase of the new Homeland Security headquarters, which the White House has called the largest federal building project since the Pentagon. Under construction; targeted for completion 2013.DC$650 million (for DHS headquarters project)
Camp Pendleton Naval Hospital [35]The new military hospital will contain four levels and 500,000 square feet. Under construction; targeted for completion 2014.CA$394 million

*House Republicans have argued [36] that an internal White House memo [37] indicates that subsidies for the wind farm might be overly generous.

Are the jobs only temporary? A lot of stimulus money allowed schools to retain permanent employees, and some short-term workers landed full-time jobs. As for construction work, it's by nature a compilation of temporary jobs. When business is strong, workers move from one project to the next earning steady paychecks. During cold spells and downturns, work dries up and the firms lay off their crews for months at a time.

6. The stimulus has been full of/free of fraud, waste and abuse.

After Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq reconstruction, many analysts predicted that the federal stimulus program would be rife with fraud, waste and abuse. At least so far, it hasn't been.

Earl Devaney, the inspector general put in charge of stimulus oversight, testified at a congressional hearing in June that "there have been only 144 convictions involving a little over $1.9 million." That's less than 0.01 percent of the total program.

Still, criminal fraud cases take a long time to develop. Since Devaney spoke, 41 new convictions have been added to the books, and more could come. The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board has received more than 7,000 complaints [38] leading to 1,500 open investigations.

None of this accounts for waste, which is ultimately subjective. Sen. Tom Coburn has now released three reports detailing hundreds of projects that didn't pass his smell test. Here they are if you want to judge for yourself:

7. Infrastructure is the answer for unemployment.

Partly, but not as much as advocates have claimed. After the debt-ceiling compromise, President Obama said:

"We also need to give more opportunities to all those construction workers out there who lost their jobs when the housing boom went bust. We could put them to work right now by giving loans to private companies that want to repair our roads and our bridges and our airports, rebuilding our infrastructure."

The construction industry was one of the hardest-hit sectors in the recession, with 27 percent unemployment at its worst. (It's now 14 percent.) But building homes requires skills different from building infrastructure, said Ken Simonson, economist for the construction trade group Associated General Contractors of America. And unemployment is running high in heavy and civil engineering construction, which has lost 160,000 jobs since July 2007, nearly twice as many as the stimulus transportation projects created. Those workers are likely to land infrastructure jobs ahead of the 400,000 homebuilders who lost their jobs over the same period.

For all sectors of the economy, a grim problem is the long-term unemployed—those out of work six months or longer—who now make up 44 percent of the total jobless pool. The Federal Reserve reported in July that workers unemployed a month or less had a three in 10 chance of finding a job while the odds for the long-term jobless were one in 10 [42].

Author Michael Grabell is working on a book Money Well Spent?: What Really Happened to the Trillion-Dollar Stimulus Plan [43], due out in January from PublicAffairs.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the only tax increases passed during the Obama administration were part of the health-care reform bill. In fact, the excise tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products was also raised as part of a children's health insurance bill in February 2009.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Modeselektor interview

Even though their next album, Monkeytown, isn't due to drop until early October, Berlin electro-duo Modeselektor descends upon Charlotte, North Carolina on Tuesday, August 16th as part of the Identity Festival. A full-blown sensory overload of an event that celebrates electronic music across the country during the final months of summer 2011, the Identity Festival features an exciting collection of worldwide talent such as Kaskade, The Crystal Method, Rusko, Pretty Lights, DJ Shadow, and of course Modeselektor. For those of you haven't heard previous Modeselektor releases, such as Hey Mom or Happy Birthday!, they are widely regarded as sonic chameleons- effortlessly flowing through dance-floor club sounds, R&B, dubstep, rap, and avant-garde experimentalism.

Monkeytown promises to be full of surprises and features guest appearances from various artists including Thom Yorke, PVT, Anti Pop Consortium, Busdriver, among others. Recently, I was lucky enough to chat with the one and only Modeselektor about the impending release of Monkeytown, Thom Yorke, growing up with techno, and more.

FR: Monkeytown arrives in a few months with great anticipation- from myself included. Was this recording process any different than usual?

M: Contrary to our other two albums, "Monkeytown" has been recorded together in the studio and in one run, so to say. We used to work individually and share files and just be in the studio together now and then - this time it was 100% working side by side on the music. We actually started working on the album a year ago but had a hard time getting into it. We got into the working flow when we were faced with a deadline. So 10 weeks before our mastering date, we really got working, so you could say that we got into the groove a year ago but actually produced it in a 10 week session.

FR: You guys are known for featuring a sound that is difficult to pinpoint yet wholly your own. From ambient to hip hop to dubstep, your sound is clearly inspired by various musical genres, but the songs are structured in a way that keeps them fresh and original. Is song structure something Modeselektor works to perfect? Or is it just a natural outgrowth?

M: Hmmm ... We actually don't really think about our music but just do it. We don't work conceptionally, just bring out what's inside of us. We experiment with some beats or sounds and see what comes out of it until we have a base for a track which we then polish up.

FR: Can we expect a "familiar" Modeselektor from Monkeytown or should we prepare ourselves for the unknown?

M: It's both, but definitely a real Modeselektor album.

FR: You guys return to the states in August with a pretty healthy month of touring. How do you prepare for the live circuit? Do you prepare differently in other countries?

M: We never liked preparing differently for different countries. We used to be afraid of playing certain cities or countries, but realized that this doesn't make sense. So we now treat every city, venue and country the same - just pure Modeselektor power! Maybe it's also because our sound has become kind of international so that we don't even have to think about it.

FR: Is there a favorite place you like to play? A favorite live experience?

M: You can't answer this questions without leaving someone out and being unfair to others - so, no answer on this one.

FR: I recently interviewed Sander Kleinenberg and he informed me that Apparat is the current act making the most interesting souds. Any plans to collaborate with Apparat in the future and release more Moderat material?

M: Apparat? Who is this? Never heard of it.

FR: Do you guys have a current favorite artist?

M: Same like for the other question. Let's put it this way - there are a lot of artists we really admire.

FR: Where did you first discover electronic music? What differences do you notice in the electronic music scene now as opposed to when Modeselektor first began writing music?

M: Well, we basically grew up with Techno. There were warehouse parties and raves going on everywhere in Berlin - and we were in the centre of it. It used to be a big adventure back then - today it's more like an industry. But we never lost the original idea and the romantic kind of love for electronic music - we always try to extend it even more.

FR: You’ve acquired a pretty strong lineup of guest spots on Monkeytown- including Radiohead’s Thom Yorke among others. Your previous collaboration with Thom, “The White Flash” from Happy Birthday, is actually where I first got into you guys (that tune still packs a wallop). What was it like working with Thom on Monkeytown?

M: Pretty normal. He is very down-to-earth, just a regular guy, human like we all are. He especially came to see us here in Berlin at our studio in order to work on the two collaborations. Over the years he really became a friend of ours.

FR: Any advice to up-and-coming artists struggling to make it in the 21st century music industry?

M: We don't really know if one should get involved with the music industry nowadays. We still believe in good music, music with a soul. This kind of music will always find its way to people, no matter how. Our advice - don't follow any trends, do what you want to do. Always question yourself if you want to do music because you want to become famous and successful in the music industry or if you just want to do good music. It's a big difference.

Monkeytown will be available October 4th in the US. For further information on the Identity Festival, please visit .