Sunday, February 28, 2010

Free College Education Not A Right

I have three children in college. College is not cheap. But they are not going to private schools with expenses in the $40k-S60k range per year. They are going to state universities. But they are getting their education in the fields they chose.

My wife and I agreed we would cover their in-state tuition, they would have to handle everything else. That means they must work and go to school. I know, we are so cruel. However, they have it much better than I did.

I had zero financial aid for college from my parents. But I was still able to fund an undergraduate BS degree and then an MBA. Why? Because I wanted it and figured out a way to achieve it.

It was not because my parents did not want to help; it was because they literally did not have the money. They never graduated from college; they did not have the interest nor the family tradition. On my maternal side, there were no college graduates -- mainly a blue-collar heritage. On my paternal side, higher education was encouraged by my grandfather but it had to be on his terms -- in architecture or engineering. Anything else would be on his sons' pocketbook, not his. My dad did not favor either field.

In my immediate family, higher education was not discussed nor was it expected. My parents struggled like most do, living for the most part from pay check to pay check. We lived in a modest three-bedroom home with five children. We had one used car. We never went on vacation; just to our grandparents' homes (which I loved). Although I had friends whose families had more money, this lifestyle did not bother me that much. But I figured there could be more. And I proved that there was.

When I heard President Obama's State of the Union this past January, I questioned his sounds-good-on-the-surface-but-pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-curtain populism on higher education: this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job. That's why I urge the Senate to follow the House and pass a bill that will revitalize our community colleges, which are a career pathway to the children of so many working families.

To make college more affordable, this bill will finally end the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that go to banks for student loans. Instead, let's take that money and give families a $10,000 tax credit for four years of college and increase Pell Grants. And let's tell another one million students that when they graduate, they will be required to pay only 10 percent of their income on student loans, and all of their debt will be forgiven after 20 years –- and forgiven after 10 years if they choose a career in public service, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college.

And by the way, it's time for colleges and universities to get serious about cutting their own costs -- because they, too, have a responsibility to help solve this problem.
Price tag: in the trillion dollar range. He left that out.

If everyone goes to college, who will do the jobs that do not require college degrees? Illegal immigrants? Not everyone one is cut out for college. Many could not cut it in high school. A free college tuition break to one that does not want to pay the price to earn a degree does not make for a good public investment.

Only a fool goes broke trying to get a college degree. An Ivy League-like education is the exception and not the rule. There are many lower cost options for advanced education. For some, it is a trade school or two-year community college. For others it is a state school. If you want an advanced degree, it is not the taxpayers responsibility to cover this cost. There are means to get those degrees. They might not be the most appealing but if one has the desire, it can be achieved.

Pell Grants and loan options have been around for decades. I used them when I could. I earned a Pell Grant for part of my undergraduate studies. I took out loans for my MBA. I also got academic scholarships to help subsidize the expenses in both cases.

What I dislike about Obama's approach to most things is that he believes government is the answer. I believe it is the problem. Everything he tries to do makes its beneficiaries a slave of the state. He is first a foremost a statist. It is core to everything he does. It is not for me or for America.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sabino Canyon

Sabino Canyon, on the south central side of the Catalina Mountains, is a Tucson native and tourist destination. It is part of the Coronado National Forest.

Most people that visit the Canyon do so via the shuttle bus service, as no cars are allowed. The bus travels up the canyon around four miles, makes nine stops, and turns around. It crosses the Sabino Creek nine times; most of the time the creek is dry. Today, it was running but not flooding.

For most visitors, they stay near the pavement. For a few, the back country is the destination. The Sabino Canyon Trail climbs north up a set of switchbacks for around 0.5 miles. It then undulates for two miles to the east fork of the canyon, meeting the Arizona Trail (elevation 3760 feet). The section to the east meets the Bear Canyon Trail and after six miles crossed the Catalina Highway. The section to the west climbs to Romero Pass (elevation 6080 feet). The section continuing north heads toward Spencer Peak and crosses the Catalina Highway at an elevation of 7920 feet after seven more miles.

What is the most interesting about Sabino Canyon is the variety of vegetation. The water gives opportunity for some dense vegetation. Cacti take a back seat to other plant families including sycamore, willow, oak and cottonwood.

Congested at the start, once I hiked the 2.5 miles to the AZ Trail junction, I did not see a single person. I needed to make two tricky stream crossings, one without getting wet, but the second, just short of Hutch's Pool, required wading.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sane Healthcare Reform

Liberals want complete government control of our healthcare, from cradle to grave. Conservatives want to minimize the role government takes, having them focus their efforts on cost control.

For former is insane; the later prudent. One based on emotion, the other on logic.

Today, individuals are have little role in their personal healthcare. They pay a small percentage of their incomes. Their employers, the government and the insurance companies are the key players. Hence the reason for the problem.

Individuals need to take greater responsibility for their health care. The best thing for us all is to allow the market forces to work their mojo on those providing the insurance and the care.

It should not be cheaper to buy health care through an employer. Health care saving and spending accounts would goo a long way to address the out of pocket costs. It would force people to go to the MD when they really need it. Too many have the attitude that if they have insurance, they should use it.

Health care insurance should be tax deductible, not just for companies but for individuals.

Individuals should be able to buy health insurance across state borders. For example, if you want to buy a policy from a state that mandates abortion or sex change coverage, then you should have that option. If not, then you should not be force to subsidize those policies that do.

Tort reform is critical to cost controls. Today, MDs will order costly procedures in the hope of covering all of their basis and limiting law suits. Malpractice suits should still exist but there needs to be reasonable caps.
Despite the claims of some partisans to the contrary, the president's plan is failing because it does not speak to the concerns of the majority of Americans. Instead of addressing the high and rising costs of care, it proposes mandates, invasive regulation, and unaffordable new entitlements. This will not bring health-care costs down—it will only make this problem worse.
Obamacare is smoke and mirrors. It will quickly consume more and more of our GDP, trumping social security and other out-of-control federal spending. Only an idiot would buy into Obamacare as a deficit-reducing program. The regulation and mandates will be enormous, crushing both in quality of care, flexibility and costs. This liberal-lead program will be the mother of all federal entitlement programs, just the way they want and exactly what conservatives and most Americans do not want.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Nevada, Please Make Harry Cry

Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have got to be two people in this world that would be at the top of my least admired list. It amazes me that their constituencies continue to vote them back into office. And then, what is it about these people that their congressional peers favor them with the positions they have?

Harry and Nancy are going to "try" to shove the same Obamacare plan Americans rejected vociferously back down our throats.

We all must appreciate the wisdom of these omniscient members of congress. How blessed we are to have them tell us what is in our best interest -- personally and nationally.

The people in San Fransicko will not vote out Nancy but I hold out hope that the people of Nevada will vote Harry out -- for their personal interests as well as our national interest.

As Harry is warning Republicans that they "should stop crying" about invoking the budget reconciliation process to pass a health care reform bill, Nevadans should make Harry cry and send him back home. Please!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Super Sunday -- Olympic Hockey

I am a fan of the Winter Olympics, though I must admit I will not watch figure skating, in all its varieties. For mean it is painful, right up there with shopping and attending any craft fair. I enjoy nordic and alpine skiing, speed skating, luge/skeleton/bobsled and biathlon. I really like the snowboarding and cross boarding/skiing. But I am passionate about Olympic ice hockey, especially since they allowed NHL players to participate.

From a hockey perspective, today was Super Sunday in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The best teams in the world played:

-- Russia beat Czech Republic -- 4-2
-- USA beat Canada -- 5-3
-- Sweden beat Finland -- 3-0

Although still part of the preliminary rounds, the six teams offered the best hockey players in the world.

The USA-Canada games was a classic from the drop of the puck in the first period. Canada, arguably the better team and gold medal favorite, made a few mistakes the Americans capitalized upon. The Americans did what they needed to do to win, lead by excellent goal tending by Ryan Miller.

One of these six teams will win the goal medal. The quarterfinals, semi-finals and gold medal matches should not be missed.

One interesting thing the US win means is that Canada and Russia are now on track to meet in the quarterfinals and one of these two favorites will leave without a medal.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Enumerated Powers Act

You'd think Congress would have the wisdom to check the United States Constitution to make sure that what they are trying to enact does not violate this sacred document. The legislature is made up mostly of lawyers who have probably has one or more classes in school on the Constitution. Guess they slept through those courses.

The Enumerated Powers Act, as defined in H.R. 450 and S. 1319, requires "Congress to specify the source of authority under the United States Constitution for the enactment of laws, and for other purposes."

Sixty members of the House are already cosponsors of H.R. 450. There are 22 cosponsors of S. 1319 in the Senate.

If you want to write your Congressman or Senator, the John birch Society makes it easy.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Chiricahua National Monument

It is rather nice to spend a Saturday in February in a space as spectacular as the Chiricahua National Monument. Like many Arizona mountain ranges, it is an island in the desert. The flora marries the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts with the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Madre. The fauna is dominated by an amazing variety of birds.

The two main areas of interest are the Heart of Rocks and Echo Canyon, both highlighted by what the Chiricahua Apache refer to as "standing up rocks."

The Heart of Rocks hike is about 7 miles round-trip up & down Rhyolite Canyon, starting at 5400 feet and topping out at over 7000 feet. This day's hike experienced fallen snow at around 6200 feet. In the Heart of Rocks loop it was 3-4 inches. The pinnacles are just outstanding, a classic Arizona hike.

In Echo Canyon, there is a neat grotto, which is the destination for most hikers. Spend the time and do the full 3.5 mile loop -- Echo Canyon Trail -> Hailstone Trail -> Ed Riggs Trail. You will see some amazing rocks and canyons.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ft. Bowie National Historical Site

National Historical Sites experience less traffic than National Parks. I opine that it is due to the fact that most people could care less about history. That's sad. But for a visitor on a cool weekend in February, I had the Ft. Bowie National Historical Site almost to myself, less a trail crew and a couple from California.

For 20 years this fort stood as a refuge for the Army during the battles against the Chiricahua Apache, including those periods of Cochise and Geronimo.

The key to this location is Apache Spring. Water is king is this area that combines Sonoran and Chihuahuan Desert with the southern Rocky Mountains and the northern Sierra Madres. Without this spring, this fort would have been located elsewhere. (They tell you not to drink the water; but I did -- couldn't help it; it was fine.)

Nestled between the Chiricahua and Dos Cabeza Mountains, the round-trip hike is 3 miles. The return hike over Overlook Ridge is not for the out-of-shape person.

A wonderful return to a rough time for the Apache and the U.S. Army.