If you lived in Boston or thereabouts in the last half of the 20th Century, chances are you or someone you knew listened to Jess Cain on morning drive-time radio. His show was the usual mix of the occasional pop tune, news, traffic reports, and ads. But what made the Jess Cain show so special, and so memorable even after all these years, were his comedy bits. In the terrible years that were the 1960s, his comedic gifts were welcome respite from library bombings by “student activists” on the home front and Napalm bombing by the US in Southeast Asia. Jess Cain’s good-natured humor took on less incendiary subjects–family, sports, work…the everyday stuff of everyday people. He had one bit, with his newscaster Vin Maloney, called “What bugs you?”, in which Vin would ask members of the non-existent “studio audience” that question, and Jess, using a variety of voices, would answer. The routine always ended with Cain’s falsetto cry of “paaannnttty hoezzzzzzzzz!”
I think it’s time to revisit this classic question, and, since you asked, I’ll tell you what bugs me.
It bugs me when elected officials of the same party talk about the same legislation and cannot get their stories straight.
Here’s the March 30 statement of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi regarding the new law affecting student lending, aka the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act:
This legislation contains the largest investment in college aid in our nation’s history by lowering the cost of student loans, expanding Pell Grants, and investing in community colleges and the institutions that traditionally have served minorities. It is fiscally responsible, ending years of government subsidies to banks, making available $68 billion for college loans and deficit reduction.
Meanwhile, in another part of town on that very same day, President Obama is busy finding other ways to use that $68 billion:
So using the $68 billion that we’re saving, that had been going to the banks, here’s what we’re going to be able to do. First, we will reinvest a portion of those savings to upgrade our community colleges, which are one of the great, undervalued assets in our education system….we’ll also reinvest part of that $68 billion in savings in Pell Grants, one of the most popular forms of financial aid….third, we’re….making it easier for responsible students to pay off their loans….if you pay your loans on time, you’ll only have to pay them off for 20 years. And you’ll only have to pay them off for 10 years if you repay them with service to your community, and to our country, as a teacher or a nurse or a member of our Armed Forces. Finally, we’ll reinvest some of the $68 billion in savings to strengthen our Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions.
Reinvest here, reinvest there and all of a sudden deficit reduction has been course-corrected to deficit creation.
I get bugged when President Obama, who promised transparency nonpareil throughout his administration, names a former mentor from Harvard Law School to a position that even the Boston Globe concedes is “nebulous.”
Laurence Tribe has traded his professorial title for the prestigious moniker of “senior counselor for access to justice.’’ Temporarily, of course, for where would be the justice in his giving up access to all the perks of tenure his day-job-for-life awards him?
But why settle for one sinecure when you can have two? The Globe goes on to describe Tribe’s new position as one “created especially for him.” And while Senior Counselor Tribe will “suggest ways to improve legal services for the poor, find alternatives to litigation, and strengthen the fairness and independence of domestic court,” he will have to suffer the indignities of a job that in addition to a paycheck provides only “a small staff, a limited budget, little concrete authority, and a portfolio far less sweeping than the one he told friends he had hoped to take on.” I don’t know what they call those kind of jobs inside the Beltway or for that matter the people who accept them. In Massachusetts we call the jobs “patronage appointments” and the people who accept them “hacks.” Or “Democrats.”
The Globe further goes on to describe Senior Counselor Tribe’s new job as “largely invisible,” which takes the notion of transparency to a whole new dimension. “The Justice Department,” says the Globe, “is not allowing [Tribe] to give interviews, apparently in part because of nervousness in the administration that his unabashedly liberal views might draw criticism.”
Perhaps the Justice Department should look a little deeper into Professor Tribe’s liberal credentials, or better yet ask why he needed to travel the 800 miles from Cambridge to Washington to rub shoulders with the poor. Justice might find that Professor Tribe is more than willing to defend the indigent, as long as they don’t have the temerity to show up in his neighborhood.
Back in the late 1980’s the Commonwealth Day School opened its doors to a ninety percent minority student body, in the hopes of giving those students the solid start in life a quality education provides. In a classic case of NIMBY, Tribe and his tony neighbors got up a petition to drive the school and its students back across the river to Boston. Barely a year into its existence, Commonwealth Day lost most of its enrollees when it was forced out of the Brattle Street building it owned. Forced out by “liberals” such as Tribe, who understand all too well that the social engineering schemes they are so fond of imposing on other neighborhoods aren’t really suitable for theirs.
What else bugs me?
Editorial writers who can’t maintain a consistent point of view from one paragraph to the next.
Check out “Before It Ends, Schools ‘Race’ Is a Success,” an editorial in today’s New York Times. Or just read the brief excerpt below:
Critics of the Obama administration’s signature education initiative have been breathing fire since it was announced that only Delaware and Tennessee had won first-round grants under the program, known as Race to the Top. Politicians from some losing states have denounced the well-designed scoring system under which the 16 finalists were evaluated. Others have thrown up their hands, suggesting that retooling applications for the next round is more trouble than it’s worth.
Plenty of states will line up for the remaining $3.4 billion. But even if the program ended today, it already has had a huge, beneficial effect on the education reform effort, especially at the state and local levels.
The editorial praises to the heavens the time-and-resource-consuming frenzy of preparing applications for Race to the Top funds, and claims that none of it was for naught. Please. The end result is a bunch of school systems and states in which educators have “thrown up their hands” at the thought of undertaking a second round of the complex, bureaucratic machinations entailed in putting together a proposal for a fistful of strings-attached federal funds, and the Times thinks this is a good thing?
I have reached the end, but find that I’ve only just gotten started. Stay tuned for the next installment of “What Bugs You?”
In the meantime, what bugs YOU?