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Commentary on life in Kentucky

By wmadministrator

A Kentuckian Atop the GOP in D.C.
Sen. Mitch McConnell of Louisville, returned to Washington by Kentucky voters for a fifth term, is now the most powerful member of the Republican Party in the nation’s capital. McConnell already was Senate minority leader, but the Nov. 4 election results left him the tallest tree standing in a thinner GOP forest in Washington.

This puts McConnell in a position to ensure not just that our state’s voice is heard on virtually any issue but that our interests are strongly advocated and defended. That’s crucial for our state, whose eight-man congressional delegation includes only one member, Rep. Ben Chandler, of the majority Democrats. Without McConnell it’s possible Kentucky could be left in the dust as the new Obama administration and new 111th Congress hit town in January with plans to get down to business quickly.

The headline on an article posted on the Politico.com Web site the day after the election read, “McConnell: the most powerful Republican.”

McConnell has 24 years experience and is an acknowledged master of the intricacies of the Senate. He’ll occupy ground zero when important legislative action happens. Importantly, McConnell is a conservative and will serve as a brake on potential tendencies of an all-Democrat leadership to overreach toward goals that are too liberal for our state and the nation’s sensibilities.

Kentucky’s senior senator had a target on his back as election day neared.
National Democratic organizations poured several million dollars in anti-McConnell advertising in the final weeks. Afterward, McConnell noted, “Winston Churchill once said that the most exhilarating feeling in life is to be shot at – and missed.”

It is encouraging that the initial public statements of President-elect Obama indicate a desire for a bipartisan and inclusive approach to setting the new course for the nation. If that is, indeed, the case, there’s a strong likelihood the results will be productive for the nation and the next chapter in the inspiring American story will yield a happy and more prosperous ending for us all.

Our President-Elect
Americans historically elected our nation’s first African-American president Nov. 4. Barack Obama inspires with his uplifting oratory, and the connection he made with voters propelled him to the White House. We applaud our new president-elect and wish him well.

Here are a few of his comments from the speech he delivered election night:
“The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.

“There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can’t solve every problem.

“But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.”

“Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.”

College Access, State Success
Educational attainment equals success – and what’s true at the personal level is equally true on a statewide basis. Which makes the job Gov. Steve Beshear has given a new task force vital for us all. The 25-member Higher Education Word Group is to report back in January and next September with bold yet practical ideas for making college accessible and affordable for all Kentuckians.

Only 17 percent of Kentuckians have bachelor’s degrees compared to a national average of nearly 25 percent. It’s a big reason commonwealth average incomes are only about 80 percent of the U.S. average. There’s work to do, and it’s in the classroom. And there’s not time to spare. By 2020, the national average for degreed adults is projected to be 32 percent.

The governor cited four major areas of concern that the work group will address in its reports:

• Make college more affordable. In-state tuition has increased 10 percent a year the last 10 years, compared to 7 percent in surrounding states.

• Make financial aid more accessible and easier to understand.

• Ease barriers to transfer from community and technical colleges to four-year institutions and graduate school. To meet state goals of 11,000 transfers by 2020, we need a nearly 150 percent increase.

• Determine appropriate state support for higher education and outline clearer performance expectations for colleges and universities.

“We can’t be content with baby steps when other places are taking giant strides, not when we’re trying to compete with these states in the global marketplace,” Gov. Beshear said.

Business leaders Mira Ball of Lexington and Pete Mahurin of Bowling Green will co-chair the Higher Education Work Group. Other members will include business leaders, senior governmental officials and members from both houses of the state legislature. University presidents from across the state will advise the work group.

Wish them well. Success will mean more prosperity for all Kentuckians.

Policy Must Be to Withdraw Taxpayers’ Investments Out of Bank Ownership
Reaction to the economic crisis that has broken across the world’s shores is reworking some of the pillars of capitalism. The worry is that capitalism has been corrupted by this historic rescue, especially with partial nationalization of many big banks.

The United States government is taking a $250 billion direct stake in private banks – half in nine giants, the rest spread among other significant players.
Britain, Germany, France, Italy and others also are putting further hundreds of billions into bank stock. Banks’ capital bases needed shoring up to provide the reserves necessary to again make the loans the business world needs to function, and central governments were the only available sources of such chunks of cash.

But furrowed brows wonder whether government and its plodding, decision-by-committee process can possibly produce good choices in allotting capital efficiently. Doubtful. Well, make that a no. The free-market economic system is very efficient – except when government starts over-regulating agencies like Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and financial institutions. That’s why rescue plans call for new non-voting, non-policy-setting forms of stock for government collateral. Even so, the very idea of government holding ownership positions in the cornerstone institutions of capitalism grates on our sensibilities. Plus, such a class of shares has been specifically illegal – until now. It’s a definition of conflict of interest for government to change the rules to allow government to buy a special class of stock.

“In all things, moderation” goes the truism. Good advice, that. Lack of moderation produced the current crisis, and the great concern is that the situation’s seriousness led to a fix that also is too severe. It’s a legitimate worry. With the biggest banks semi-nationalized, is the result still capitalism? Reasonable people can argue the point.

The present situation, however, is not socialism. Those who describe it so have forgotten or are too young to recall the actual socialism practiced in multiple variations until late in the last century; verbal moderation is in order.
What seems true, though, is that we’ve turned in that direction. Yes, Western governments had to act to prevent our financial system from seizing up and avert another Great Depression scenario. To stand by would be irresponsible. Economic implosion does present a national security threat.

Meanwhile, current actions – if they truly work – must be impermanent steps. The structure of the U.S. government bank-stock purchases strongly encourages this, mandating 5 percent dividends for five years and a steep 9 percent after that. Beyond this financial incentive for banks to buy back these shares, formal public policy should be to get government out of bank ownership. Policymakers must acknowledge human nature: When government is an owner, it is inevitable loan decisions will become politicized, and operators will come to view the Treasury as a backstop for risk-taking. Another failure to factor in human nature helped create the financial crisis – unbridled free-marketeers refused to recognize that profitable bad conduct would be repeated by competitors. When banks and other major financial institutions are fully back in private hands, when government has returned to the corral and acting only as monitor and regulator, we will know that we have recovered and capitalism is again on sounder, saner ground.—Mark Green

The Voice of Leadership
University of Kentucky President Lee Todd Jr., Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry and Gov. Steve Beshear represented the true voice of their communities when they responded immediately to repudiate the hanging of an effigy of presidential candidate Barack Obama on the UK campus late last month.

While the Kentucky act occurred shortly after news reports that an effigy of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was hung in California – and imagery threatening physical harm to any of our political leaders is offensive – Obama is African-American. His likeness triggers memories of the darkest violence in U.S. history.

UK President Lee Todd called the racially charged display “deplorable,” adding, “I know this is not a reflection of this institution,” which has tried to increase its black student population in recent years. Newberry and Gov. Steve Beshear also decried the effigy and made public apologies to Obama on behalf of the city and state.

“This was not political speech,” Beshear said. “It was simply hate. It was profoundly wrong and deeply offensive. This incident does not reflect who we are.”
Two young men were arrested within a couple of days. While we agree that the act was wrong, offensive and not reflective of Kentucky, we do prefer to see their motivation as political – albeit immature and terribly misguided – rather than racial.
Let the focus be on the response of our leaders, who reflect the true feelings of our commonwealth, its communities and institutions.

Wise Voices for Tough Times
I just received the October issue of The Lane Report. Your coverage and commentary on the present economic morass is excellent. To see such wise men and woman and (Frederick von) Hayek, (Milton) Friedman, (John Kenneth) Galbraith, (Ayn) Rand quoted was heartening. And that you hearkened back, as we so desperately need to, to the founders, to Franklin, Jefferson and Washington, was equally uplifting. I also appreciated the inclusion of articles by (Thomas) Sowell, (Randal) O’Toole, (John) Farris, et al, on the mess, as well as Ms. Pat Friebert’s commentary on military voting. Thanks!
Allison Morris
Marketing Director
Corman & Associates Inc.