Sunday, June 30, 2013

Cinfici Helps Balance the Reading School District Budget to Avert a State Takeover

           Since I was sworn in as Reading School Director on May 8 to fill a vacancy on the Board of Directors, I have been preoccupied with the passage of a balanced budget for the Reading School District.  I am sorry that I was unable to post more frequently during this time, as the process required my intense focus to close a $13 million shortfall without raising taxes.

           I am pleased that although I did not agree with all of the provisions within the Districts budget for fiscal year 2013-2014 that begins July 1, the Board was able to pass a balanced budget of over $212 million on Friday, June 28, before the legal deadline of today.  The failure to pass a balanced budget on time would have resulted in the state declaring the District, which is already in distressed watch status, as a distressed school district, which would have allowed the state to dictate its finances totally through a financial recovery officer or receiver.  Although a state takeover would likely have resulted in better fiscal responsibility, the principal of local control would have been lost and local input of the spending of locally-raised tax dollars thereby nullified. The District would also have been financially stigmatized with an even lower credit rating and its prospects of ever recovering and permanently exiting distressed status bleak.  I believed that as long as local control existed, the Board must exercise its fiduciary responsibility to pass a fiscally-responsible budget.  I am pleased that the Board appears to have achieved this goal.

           The Reading School District Administration had presented a plan immediately after my swearing in to close a projected budget deficit of over $13 million dollars that included the highest real estate tax increase allowable by law for the second consecutive year, without building up any significant budgetary reserve. Some of its plans did not appear to the Board of Directors to be well considered while many other initiatives to save money or increase revenue were left on the shelf as not ready. The Board exercised its fiduciary responsibility by exemplifying the value of local control by working its way through the Administrations proposals to cut student programs or services, taking out what we thought too damaging to students or that was too impracticable or inefficient for our particular district by offsetting them with our own proposed cuts, without raising taxes and by placing $2.5 million in budgetary reserve.

           I am proud to have helped assist the District at this critical time. I noted to the Board, however, that its work is not done, as additional savings and increased revenue (other than by raising taxes) are necessary to build up the budgetary reserve to the recommended level of $10 million, as the District likely will need to use at least some of it because of certain foreseen anticipated expenses or losses of revenue or because of unforeseen contingencies.  I am eager to begin to promote various ideas for additional savings and increased revenue.

           In the meantime, I look forward to a break in the meeting schedule and possibly being able to post more frequently.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Governor Corbett Signs a Bill to Prohibit Abortion Coverage in the Federal Insurance Exchange

           Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican, signed legislation yesterday to prohibit the use of tax dollars to pay for abortion coverage in the federal insurance exchange created by United States President Barack Obama’s federalization of health insurance.

           The bill had passed the General Assembly, both chambers of which are controlled by Republicans, with strong bipartisan support.  Pennsylvania was one of many States that had opted to defer to the federal government in establishing the insurance exchange instead of creating its own.  The Keystone State has had a longstanding general policy of prohibiting public funding of abortion, with only a few exceptions.  Pennsylvania joins several other States in making a similar move in regard to the federal insurance exchanges.  More States are considering similar proposals.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Conservative Commentary on the Rise of President George W. Bush’s Approval Rating

           Recent polling has revealed that the American people’s approval of the performance as United States President of George W. Bush is now more favorable than unfavorable – the first time since early in the 43rd President’s second term.  He even enjoys a higher approval rating than his successor, President Barack Obama.

            Bush’s approval rating had been rising gradually, but was boosted recently by the favorable attention that he and his Administration received at the time of the dedication of his presidential library in Texas.  With the passage of time, both historians and the public gain perspective when viewing the record of past presidents.  In addition, presidential papers are made available for study.  These two events allow the public to appreciate that a Commander in Chief safely guided the ship of state, while realizing that the information learned from historical documents tends generally to reflect more favorably than unfavorably on past presidents. 

These events are also demonstrating a contrast between the Bush and Obama Administration, which is why the 43rd President’s approval rating has now surpassed the 44th’s.  Indeed, the two have been trending in opposite directions.   There are also a number of policy factors as to why Bush’s presidency is viewed more favorably now than before. 

A major contrast between Bush and Obama has been the latter’s massive spending and its expansion of government at the expense of liberty that is far beyond that which was initiated by the Bush Administration, which had nearly balanced the budget by 2007, prior to the Panic of 2008, as well as Obama’s tax increases.  Additionally, Obama’s spending intended to stimulate economic growth has been in vain.  The public might be recalling the prosperity of the Bush years from 2002-2008 and finding no parallel during Obama’s tenure. 

Another contrast has been the series of Obama Administration scandals: 1) the deception and cover-up during the presidential election campaign over the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya and the failure to have provided adequate security in the first place; 2) the extra scrutiny by the Internal Revenue Service on conservative organizations and other abuses of power by that agency and 3) the solicitation by the Secretary of Health and Human Services of money to promote Obama’s federalization of health insurance from companies the agency regulates.  These scandals are serious matters and were preceded by a series of other scandals, such as the payoff to union workers at the expense of bondholders during the federal takeover of General Motors and Chrysler and the subsequent closing of mostly Republican-owned car dealerships, the funneling of federal stimulus funds to politically-connected green energy companies that went bankrupt, the failure to prosecute the New Black Panther Party for voter intimidation, the Pigford payout intended for black farmers who were victimized by discrimination that did not establish any guidelines for verification and thus paid out to far more people than there were likely victims, the incompetent gun-walking program known as “Operation Fast and Furious,” and the scandalous trips and other activities at the General Services Administration, the prostitution scandal involving the Secret Service, a mirror of which is now being revealed was taking place among State Department employees.  In addition, the Administration has not lived up to its promises of openness and transparency.  These scandals represent a contrast with the relatively-less-scandal-marred Bush Administration.

A recent contrast between the Bush and Obama Administrations was demonstrated by the Boston Marathon Bombings.  The bombings on American soil, even more than the Benghazi attack, suggested that the Obama Administration’s boasts about winning the War on Terrorism, and in particular that al-Qaeda was in decline, were premature.  Furthermore, the attacks suggested weaknesses in intelligence sharing.  Moreover, the treatment of the captured terrorist like a common criminal and not as a war criminal underscores a continued deficiency in the Obama Administration’s policies in the war, such as weakening interrogations and publicizing the exact methods used, which allows the enemy to train to resist such measures, to intending to close Guantanamo Bay prison camp, to its inability to identify the enemy as Islamists engaged in violent jihad.  The Benghazi attack added to the perception of weakness, while the Boston bombings added to the growing list of deadly domestic attacks by jihadis during the Obama Administration.  In short, Obama’s policies in the War on Terrorism validate Bush’s, and although Obama deserves credit for continuing most of them, as I have posted frequently, he has undermined his approval by weakening some of them.  The recent leak of the Obama Administration’s vast surveillance program, further validates Bush’s policies in the war on terrorism, but appears to have gone much farther. 

            Public approval ratings even for past presidents do fluctuate, but the recent trend toward George W. Bush’s favor validates his expectation that his policy decisions would eventually be vindicated and more appreciated by the American people.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Obama Appoints a Conservative Republican as Federal Judge

           The United States Senate today unanimously confirmed Jeffrey Schmehl as Federal District Judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  He had been nominated by President Barack Obama, upon the recommendation of Pennsylvania’s two Senators, Robert Casey, Jr., a Democrat, and Patrick Toomey, a Republican. 

            Schmehl, 57, of the Reading suburbs, currently serves as Judge of the Court of Common Pleas for Berks County.  The conservative Republican, who is half-Italian-American, was first elected in 1997 and retained ten years later, after serving as County Solicitor.  Schmehl had served previously as an assistant district attorney.  He is highly regarded by judges, lawyers and the people as a jurist who is knowledgeable, fair and who has integrity. 

The appointment fills a vacancy in the federal courthouse based in Reading created by the death several years ago of Judge Thomas Golden, a Republican who had been appointed by President George W. Bush.  Federal judges serve for life, as long as they maintain good behavior.

           I was proud to support Schmehl’s candidacy in 1997 and retention in 2007.  As a member of the Board of Elections, he and the other two members ruled in my favor against the County Election Services Office in regard to settling the botched primary election in 2005.  I was honored that Judge Schmehl swore me back into office as Reading School Director last month.  I applaud the President and Senate for his nomination and confirmation and wish him best regards in office as Federal District Judge.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Twelve Million Italians Pay for Private Healthcare Instead of Relying on Socialized Medicine

           Over 12 million Italians paid for private healthcare instead of relying on the free services provided by the Italian Republics socialized health system that is paid for by the taxpayers it is intended to serve, according to a report by statistics agency Censis, the Italian news agency, ANSA, reported.  Italy has a population of under 60 million.

           The main reason cited by the Italians who paid for care outside the state medical system, according to ANSA, was to avoid long waiting lines.  The second most common reason was to obtain better care.  Specialists, such as dentists, gynecologists and rehabilitation specialists, according to ANSA.

           The results of the study that prove that a significant number of Italians do not find socialized healthcare satisfactory suggests that the proponents of socialized medicine in the United States, or at least the federalization of health insurance with the concomitant heavy government regulation of healthcare as approved by a liberal Democratic Congress in 2009 and signed into law by President Barack Obama, were wrong to point to European and other Western models as shining examples of the wonders of socialism. Similar problems have been reported with both the British and Canadian healthcare systems, for example, that are held up as exemplary by liberals who made it a slogan during the debate over Obamas plan that the U.S. was the only major industrial power without at least some form of government health insurance, as if the Americans ought to follow the lead of these other states.

           The study of the Italian medical system suggests that socialized healthcare does not work and ought to be avoided.  The U.S. should work instead to be a great leader in achieving prosperity through free markets.