Last week, President Obama addressed the nation.
He talked about jobs, energy, education, and bipartisan necessities... All in all, it was a fantastic pep rally that answered few important questions, but got the masses all riled up anyway.
Obama supporters cheered and got a fresh jolt of cosmetic enthusiasm, though it's likely most still don't know why they're so excited.
Obama critics attacked with sound bites left over from the November election, and made their rounds on the “news” on Twitter and any message board that doesn't require you to register before posting.
Either way, of all the comments and criticisms I heard — both positive and negative — few addressed the overall picture of reality versus the illusions created during the State of the Union Address. Especially as it pertains to education and energy.
The Education Illusion
President Obama had no problem rallying the masses when he spoke about education, saying we need to revamp education policy and add 100,000 more math, science, and engineering teachers by the end of the next decade.
Sounds good. But while you can create, regulate, and incentivize schools and teachers... you can't do the same with parents.
Listen, there are some fantastic teachers out there. And thanks to some new initiatives, it looks like (at least in some states) school systems are finally starting to clean house, getting rid of complacent, tenured slackers who are pretty much hanging around for a paycheck and summer vacation.
And I don't say this to attack teachers...
I know some amazing teachers doing some amazing things. They go beyond the call of duty every single day, often pay out of pocket for their own supplies (including paper and pencils), and donate countless hours staying after school to work with kids that need a little extra help — and they don't get time and a half for that!
These quality teachers are true patriots in every sense of the word, and their work should not be trivialized.
However, no matter how hard these teachers work, if the parents don't do their part, it doesn't matter.
You wouldn't believe some of the stories I've heard from teachers over the years: stories about kids actually hitting teachers because the kids thought they were being “picked on”... stories about students walking in and out of classrooms without permission, because "they felt like it"...
And don't even think about putting your hand on one of those kids to stop them — you'll be sued so fast, it'll make your head spin.
But the worst part is in many instances, when parents are called, they either show no interest at all or they blame the teacher for their child's disciplinary problems.
I guess they never got the memo that discipline starts in the home, not in the classroom.
President Obama noted that one in four American students does not graduate from high school. But this is a problem that cannot be fixed by just new policies and more teachers...
This problem can only be rectified when parents take responsibility for their kids' success. If that doesn't happen, those unacceptable numbers will not change.
The Clean Energy Illusion
President Obama told us last week he wants 80 percent of the nation's electricity coming from clean energy sources by 2035.
The illusion here is not the number; but rather what the definition of “clean” should be.
Is “clean coal” clean? Not by a long shot!
Spending a fortune to capture and sequester CO2 emissions doesn't make coal clean; it just makes it more expensive for rate payers.
Nuclear is considered to be cleaner than coal, and doesn't carry with it the same carbon emissions burden. Although it could be argued that until the waste issue is properly addressed, nuclear isn't really all that “clean”...
I won't prolong this debate here, but feel free to share your (civil) comments below.
And natural gas certainly burns cleaner than coal, but emits about ten times as much CO2 than hydro, wind, and solar. If anything, natural gas proves its value much more as a transportation fuel versus being used to power the grid.
Of course, the big hang-up with natural gas and coal is that these are already mature, profitable industries — which, by the way, still get a sizable chunk of your tax dollars.
In fact from 2002 to 2008, the United States government ponied up $72 billion in incentives for oil, gas, and coal producers.
So now — under the guise of “clean energy” — we're going to pony up more for these guys, while the president smiles and tells the country that we're going to end all those fossil fuel subsidies?
They're not going to end anything. They're just going to give the fossil fuel welfare scam a fresh coat of “green” spin and hope no one notices.
The whole point of subsidies is that they provide a kick-start for emerging industries that will pay off down the road.
But the last time I checked, oil, gas, and coal were not “emerging” industries...
It's all a very slippery and dishonest move that does little to address the realities of peak oil, , and the liquidation of natural capital.
The painful truth is simple: if we don't get serious about investing in new, cost-cutting clean energy technologies that help alleviate the pressures of peak oil, peak coal, and natural capital liquidation. . .