Category Archives: Guest Bloggers

Guest Blog: Mike Boyce on VA Benefits

Another guest blog from Cobb County Commission Chairman Candidate: Mike Boyce. You can learn more about his campaign at http://www.likemike4cobb.com.

 

Time is the most precious commodity on the campaign trail and any events that are not campaign-related are given short shrift.  Since I began my campaign in earnest last fall, my stack of unread books continues to await, an indirect barometer of the future:  If I win the books will continue to gather dust and if otherwise they are a consolation to a battle well fought.

One of the few practices that I have not cast aside is my commitment to veterans, particularly those in need of health care or benefits.  As Glen  Martin,  my favorite patriot with the Disabled Veterans of America so succinctly sums it up, they served so they deserve.  So for the last year, almost weekly and sometimes more, I have been taking veterans to the Veterans Administration office in Decatur to assist them in registering for health care or other benefits.  Once they enter the portals of the VA hospital they are welcomed and treated as heroes.  Members of the staff, regardless of their responsibilities, convey a clear message that all veterans are to be accorded the respect and dignity which their service to America entitles them.  The testimonies that I have heard from the veterans that I have shepherded to the VA are an affirmation of the spiritual message that in service you are rewarded with manifold blessings.   To have witnessed a wrong corrected after 40 years, a benefit rendered with a savings in the hundreds of dollars, a disability finally recognized and treated and compensation instituted to offset in some small degree the physical sacrifice and pain associated with the affliction, all these are just some of the many chapters in story that I in no way anticipated when I first began this mission.

One such account happened today as I waited for my latest veteran to complete his interview process for health care.  A lady sitting next to me struck up a conversation about her husband.  He was in the Army during the Vietnam War and was now diagnosed with diabetes and Parkinson’s Disease.  All  these diagnoses had been determined to be associated with his contact with Agent Orange while in Vietnam.  As I listened to this lady talk about her family, her husband, and care for him, I was, in a word, amazed.    Several months ago I saw a letter dated in the 1970’s from the VA denying his request for health care for medical conditions associated with Agent Orange because of the lack of any substantiating evidence corroborating the effects of Agent Orange.  A generation later there is now a substantial list of illnesses that are “presumed” to be linked to Agent Orange.  I could only sit and listen in astonishment as the lady described the litany of treatments and support that the VA was providing for this veteran and his family.  They classified him as 100% disabled entitling him to disability compensation and free medical care.  His house has been modified at US government expense to accommodate his need for wheel chair mobility.  His wife draws compensation as a caregiver.  Their drive to the VA hospital is reimbursed with a mileage payment—in cash before they leave for home.  Even more remarkable she told me her story without the least measure of sadness or anger.  She was proud of her husband, that he had served his country, and that America was not so much attempting to repay him for his sacrifice but to honor him but giving his last days the full spectrum of dignity.

God feeds us humility and humbleness in spoonfuls.  As I departed the waiting room with my Vietnam veteran, I stopped by the wheelchair, thanked this lady’s husband for his service and squeezed his hand.  His body was undoubtedly drawn tight by the Parkinson’s Disease, but it did not prevent him from looking up and acknowledging my small measure of gratefulness.  I was among heroes today and the most common type, unheralded, thankful to be with a family and friends that love them, and believing that their country will not forget or diminish their service.

There is a parable here as Cobb County government closes down senior centers and withdraws financial support for transportation for our special needs population.  We need to remind ourselves that ultimately we all will be put into the hands of people to care for us.  How that care is delivered and supported speaks volumes about us as a people and our values.  I’d like to believe that in our actions Cobb County represents the best intentions of our people and the most caring of our values.

Mike Boyce: What It Means to Be a Public Servant

Mike Boyce is running for Chairman of the Cobb Board of Commissioners. Below he details his ideas of public service. You can (and should!) learn more about him at http://www.likemike4cobb.com
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Jessica and I meet frequently as we campaign in Cobb County.  She is the Campaign Manager for  Cindi Yeager in her bid for District Attorney and I’m in the race for Chairman of the Board of Commissioners.  She has asked me to blog about my run.  The most precious commodity in any campaign is time and if yours is limited like mine, I would encourage you to visit my website at www.likemike4cobb.com or Facebook site at Like Mike 4 Cobb.  You’ll find information about my background, the skills that I bring to the office of Chairman, and, in the spirit of David Letterman, 10 reasons why people should vote for me.

I believe that the Chairman is charged with the credo that he will lead a government that is fiscally responsible, lives within its means, and works with the business community to create an economic environment which encourages entrepreneurship and promotes responsible growth.  Above all, the chairman (and any elected official) should be a person who is known by the promises he keeps.  I was in the Marine Corps for 30 years and it was a world of black and white: you did it or you did not do it.  A wag once said, To err is human, to forgive divine, neither of which is Marine Corps policy.  It’s humorous but there is a core of truth in it.

Having said that, why would I want to devote almost every waking moment for 9 months of my life and spend money that could be used on my family or applied to an already long delayed bucket list to aspire a to a position that, if I am successful in attaining, will result in a daily public scrutiny that leaves you with no private life,  where half the voters on your best day will be angry at you, and any accomplishments will be heralded long after you are gone and or will be so grudgingly acknowledged that they will seem like pyrrhic victories at the time?  I can assure you that I seek this office for the same reason that in my Marine Corps career I endured low pay, public hostility during the era of the Vietnam War, frequent separations from my family, deployments to places that really sucked and inhabited by people who shot at you, and flew in aircraft usually built by the lowest bidder: Because I love my country and community and any inconveniences pale in significance to the blessing of being part of both.  I believe that people who are truly committed to Public Service do so for the same reason that they make sacrifices in their spiritual journey:  Because they recognize that the reward is in the service.   A public servant makes a contract with the people to serve them and he does so based on his or her word.  The character trait most commonly associated with this partnership is integrity.  But it’s based on a promise, and a promise is something that must be kept.

This brings us back to the credo in the second paragraph.  I’m in this campaign because I continue to choose a life marked by servant hood.  I promise to lead a government that is lean because it will be fiscally responsible.  When our projected expenses are larger than our income, we won’t be furloughing police and firefighters to pay the bill like the current Chairman has done.   We also won’t be mirroring his support of new and higher taxes, actions which do not reflect Republican values.  We either live up to our word as Republicans by seeking lower taxes and smaller government or we don’t.  It’s that simple; it’s that black and white.  How we do that is politics; that we do that is keeping our promise.

Public involvement in County government makes government more responsive and effective.  Your vote does make a difference.   The 2011 Cobb County SPLOST vote was decided by less than 100 votes and was actually losing in the advanced and absentee voting ballots.  Moreover, if the 2010 Primary serves as the standard, a candidate may win with just 13% of the registered voters.  We need to stop taking all our benefits and freedoms for granted and reengage.

Cobb County makes it very easy both to register and to vote.  For registration, download and return the self-stamped form at http://elections.cobbcountyga.gov/pdf/RegistrationApplication.pdf .  If you are going to be out of town or are too busy to vote on July 31st apply for an absentee ballot in June at http://elections.cobbcountyga.gov/pdf/2012/2012AbsenteeApplication_GeneralPrimary.pdf.

I once heard an Army Genera  remark that to be born free is an accident, to live free is a privilege, to die free is a responsibility.  Let’s join together and exercise our freedom to vote.

SB 292: Bad Policy & Bad Politics

Guest Blogger Jenna Howard on SB 292: Jenna holds a B.A. in Political Science from Georgia State University. She works at the Southern Arts Federation, a regional nonprofit, and is working on her Masters in Public Policy at Georgia Tech.

Hi again, folks! I’m pleased that I was asked to guest blog on the Perspicacious Conservative again, BUT, I’m even more pleased that I’m blogging about yet another one of Senator Albers (and others…) poorly researched and thought-out bills. Before I get started with this bill, I want to make one thing straight. I’m a numbers gal for which I will blame Georgia Tech. When I do any sort of policy analysis, I look at the numbers first then, try to understand the arguments around the numbers. This brings me to my next caveat; policy and politics are separate creatures. Most often, good policy doesn’t make good politics and that goes for both sides of the aisle. A politician’s goal is to get reelected and most politicians aren’t equipped to do their own policy analysis. Also, they aren’t bound to do what their policy analysts suggest (if they even have one). Glad we got that out of the way.

Now, onto this bill. The last guest blog I wrote was about a bill Senator Albers advocated to force those on unemployment to complete at least 24 hours of volunteer service for a non-profit organization. You can read more about how that was a bad idea here. This new bill, also introduced by Senator Albers (and others..), comically named, “The Social Responsibility and Accountability Act” would require a drug test for those in Georgia receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. This Act does not include programs such as Food Stamps, Medicaid, Medicare, or to pay our lovely state lawmakers or other state workers. This bill probably sounds familiar because Florida and Michigan both enacted similar legislation. Georgia is requiring those seeking TANF to undergo a swab test in lieu of a urinalysis. It would initially be paid for by the person seeking the assistance and, if tested negative, the state would reimburse them. If the person tests positive, they don’t receive or reimbursement and they are banned from receiving benefits for a certain time period. The average swab test costs $17.

Before discussing the arguments here, I immediately looked at the Florida evaluation that came out a few months ago. The first evaluation was put out by The Department of Children and Families and Florida. They reported that about 1,000-1,500 people take the test monthly. So far, 2% of applicants have failed, 96% have tested positive, and 2% have declined completing the process. Florida’s urinalysis costs $30 and the state has about 1000-1500 applicants per month. In this evaluation, 96% tested negative forcing the state to owe $32,200-$48,200 worth of reimbursements. It is estimated that the state will save $40,800-$98,400 annually on rejected applicants for a program that cost almost $200 million. Obviously, more rules and regulations require more staff and resources, so we can go ahead and that savings to their paychecks. Currently, both Michigan and Florida are fighting this legislation in court on account that it violates unreasonable search and a violation of privacy. So, let’s go ahead and throw a lot more taxpayer dollars into the mix. That’s means we’ve got a deficit on our hands, folks.

Idaho commissioned a cost-benefits analysis for precisely this question. The results? The legislation would cost more than it saved. In their words,

“To fund the costs of the program, the State would need either appropriate additional funding for a drug testing program, or divert funds from current programs for the screening, testing and treatment activities… State leaders should be prepared for any drug testing policy to be challenged in court, which could result in expensive legal fees during the first year following implementation…The costs of legal action alone during the first year could exceed the costs of the drug testing and treatment program.”

So, Idaho did their homework(take note, Georgia lawmakers). Their analysis showed this just wasn’t going to save the state the money they anticipated. But there are certainly other reasons why this isn’t a great piece of legislation. A report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism shows there is no significant difference in the rate of illegal drug abuse by welfare applicants compared to the rest of the population. In fact, 70% of drug users are full-time workers between the ages of 18 and 49.  This study is dated, but was released when Clinton’s welfare reform was enacted so I find it highly relevant to this debate.

I understand the arguments for proponents of this piece of legislation. It goes straight to the heart of “subsidizing others” and “funding drug abuse.” I understand that proponents feel like their hard earned money shouldn’t be going to others in the first place, much less to their “habits.” I understand that proponents feel like because they have to take a drug test for a job, so should welfare recipients. I find all of these arguments compelling. At first glance, I think this seems like a valid piece of legislation. But the evidence just doesn’t support the cost-benefits or that these people are using drugs to that extent. I’m not claiming that none use drugs, just like I’m not going to claim that the other people receiving taxpayer dollars don’t use drugs. Our money goes to a lot of people and I’m betting most of them aren’t using that money in the best way. If you want to help drug abuse, target the whole drug-using population.

Senator Albers claims that this legislation is “compassionate.” He wants to help those people with drug problems. Senator Albers, I ask you, what happens if these people test positive for drugs? Are you going pay to send them to a rehabilitation center? Are you going to use more taxpayer dollars to actually help those people who may, in fact, have a problem with drugs? I didn’t think so. This legislation is not compassionate, it’s a political step. It’s a perfect example of bad policy being good politics. Why aren’t we using the money we’re going to spend on this program to create jobs? Senator Albers is, in fact, on the Economic Development Committee. Why aren’t we trying to raise wages (since they’ve been stagnant since the 1970s). I would find these initiatives to be far more compassionate for the people seeking these benefits and for those taxpayers who are funding this program.

I’m going to bet this legislation will be a hit with much of the constituency. I’m going to bet our lawmakers will ignore the cost-benefit analysis that shows this legislation will cost more money than it is worth. I’m also going to bet that people are going to overlook the unconstitutionality of this legislation. And I’m going to bet those in the Gold Dome pushing this legislation won’t care about losing money or violating constitutional rights. Why? They’re not pushing this bill for the right reasons – they’re pushing it for all the wrong ones.

Here is the link to SB292 in its’ entirety.

How We Power Our Homes & Individual Rights

Another Guest Blog: This time…Aaron Matthews. Aaron has worked in government affairs for over ten years, in states all across the United States. An avid student of Objectivist philosophy and economics, he’s constantly on the lookout for issues affecting individual rights at the Georgia State Capitol.

You might think Georgia, being a bastion of conservatism in America, would be a place where innovation can prosper. You might think that Ronald Reagan’s statement that the best minds are not in government, or else businesses would steal them away, was something that Georgians could take comfort in. You would think, but then again, you would be wrong, at least when it comes to the choices about how we power our homes. In Georgia, forty some odd lobbyists and millions of dollars at the Gold Dome stand in the way of market economics from allowing consumers how their property is powered. This is wrong, and the bill winding its way through the Georgia Senate that would allow for solar power purchasing agreements (SPPAs) is a step in the right direction.

Briefly, PPAs are essentially private agreements between owners of electricity generating systems and an individual consumer. On one hand, the seller agrees to front the capital costs associated with the power generating system (in terms of solar – photovoltaic cells, mounting brackets, etc.). On the other hand, the buyer agrees to compensate the seller a fixed cost based on the output of those systems. The seller gets the benefit of all the tax credits and income from the solar systems, and the buyer gets the benefit of contractually fixed cost electrical prices for the long term. The best part, the agreement is completely voluntary. Buyers need not worry about such agreements if they do not choose to do so. It’s an arrangement so great that 46 states in America legally allow these agreements. Georgia, unfortunately, is not one of them.

This brings us to the topic of Georgia Power, which is essentially a state protected monopoly. Want to turn on your television? Talk to Georgia Power. Need to open your garage to get work? Hope you paid your Georgia Power bill. Do you like having air conditioning? Well, Georgia Power will be happy to make sure you don’t bake through the summer month. And just to make sure you enjoy Georgia Power’s monopoly even more, you are paying monthly fees on your energy bill each month to construct Reactors 3 and 4 and Plant Vogtle. If you move away from Georgia, you don’t get that money back.

With a room packed full of lobbyists this past Thursday, they collectively expressed their disdain for a rider attached to SB 459 by Buddy Carter. Originally SB 401, this bill would allow Georgians to express their economic rights like citizens of nearly every other state do by allowing Solar PPAs to finance private solar energy systems. As it stands, Solar PPAs are not something Georgia Power is very fond of. Why should they? When the state protects your monopoly, anything that allows consumers to reduce the power you hold is a realistic threat to your state guaranteed bottom-line. I wish we were all so lucky.

Flat out, Georgia Power is wrong. They are wrong on the facts and the philosophy behind their stance on this issue.

Georgia Power claims this will drive up retail rates for consumers, particularly those that do not choose to install solar panels. In terms of dollars, the cost of energy per BTU in Georgia is right in the middle, meaning states with solar PPAs rank both higher in lower. Georgia’s price per kilowatt hour is also higher than twenty-eight other states according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. When looking at the prices of energy, in fact, the prices are greatly impacted by the availability of energy sources – coal, petroleum, hydroelectric – which explains why states like Idaho and Washington (hydroelectric), North Dakota (petroleum), and Wyoming (coal) all have much lower energy prices for consumers.

The philosophy of state protected monopolies is what is most bothersome here. To put it bluntly, it is downright immoral for our elected officials to dictate who we purchase our services from in Georgia. Their fundamental responsibility is to protect our rights to choose the options that are best suited for our lives, not protect us from ourselves and what could amount to be bad choices. It’s the philosophy that underlies the higher power bills you’re paying to Georgia Power.

Let’s make our energy cheaper than the talk of elected officials. Solar PPAs are good policy. They help to drive the costs of electricity down to consumers who choose them, and they help to build jobs around the production, installation, and service of these systems. Contact members of the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee and let them know you support SB459.

Dignity for the Unemployed?

Today is a big day! It’s our first guest blogger, Jenna Howard. Jenna and I often have conflicting views on policy, legislation, candidates and everything else, however, we both oppose ridiculous governmental requirements.

Jenna holds a B.A. in Political Science from Georgia State University. She works at the Southern Arts Federation, a regional nonprofit, and plans to begin her Masters in Public Policy next fall.
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I’m pleased to do a guest blog on “The Perspicacious Conservative,” mostly because our views usually differ a great deal. I sometimes tackle my local town’s alternative newspaper, The GRIP, which covers community news and events in Spalding and other surrounding counties. I’m glad to express my views to a larger constituency! I sent some information about this topic over to The Perspicacious Conservative and was asked to write about Senate Bill 294 – a.k.a “Dignity for the Unemployed.”

If passed, the bill would require state unemployment applicants to complete 24 hours of volunteer work for a non-profit organization in order to receive state benefits. It’s worth mentioning that many states have already attempted this, but none have been successful. If this bill passes the Georgia Legislature, we would be the first state to require citizens to volunteer. It should seem a bit oxymoronic (no pun intended) to require someone to volunteer since the very definition of the word lacks any requirement other than one willingly give him or herself up for a service without penalty.

The bill’s chief sponsor is Roswell’s finest, Senator John Albers. Senator Albers did an interview on CNN where he said he thought this bill would make unemployed citizens feel better about themselves by getting up early, doing something valuable to put on their resumes, and meeting new people. This bill is inherently flawed.

Unfortunately for John Albers, the majority of the problem with unemployment isn’t that there are people out there who are unqualified for jobs. Certainly, there are situations in which that may be the case, but Georgia already has programs in place to tackle these problems (see GEDs, college, Georgia Works, and Georgia Work Ready). But incompetency isn’t the major problem here. Georgia was creating jobs in 2007 and we had a fairly healthy economy. People didn’t all of a sudden become incompetent and lose their valuable employee skills. The major problem with unemployment is that no one is hiring. The job market is simply oversaturated with applicants looking for work.

In March, Georgia’s unemployment rate hit a record high. Georgia has had higher than average unemployment in the nation for the past 4 years. Georgia continues to lose jobs instead of creating them. What good is requiring someone to volunteer when it isn’t going to force employers to create jobs in order to hire them?

Senator John Albers stated in the CNN interview that this bill would work much like the WPA (the Works Progress Administration) that President Roosevelt initiated in the Great Depression. So, why can’t the Dignity for the Unemployed work in the Great Recession like the WPA worked in the Great Depression, Senator Albers? Because the WPA employed people. It gave them jobs, income, and provided communities with much needed infrastructure. The Dignity for the Unemployed bill is nothing like the WPA. It is requiring people to work in return for no income – or they can lose the only income they are currently receiving, their unemployment package.

Now, I graduated from college in May 2011. I started applying for jobs in June (I had a part-time job that would end in August). I applied for literally hundreds of jobs that I was fully qualified, under qualified, and overqualified for. I applied everywhere including for-profit companies and non-profit organizations. Now, I don’t know when the last time Senator John Albers applied for a job, but most applications take about an hour, at least, to complete. You have to write a cover letter and tailor it to every job in which you apply. You have to tweak your resume’ so it highlights the duties of certain positions. In addition to a resume’ and cover letter, some applications require you to manually input every job you’ve had, write about why you’re the best for the position, and pass a qualifications test to weed out applicants. Requiring someone to complete 24 hours of community service when they can be applying for a job is absurd.

Bottom line, I understand some people think unemployment benefits are too lenient. I understand people have bad tastes in their mouths about unemployment entitlements. But, most people are doing the right thing on unemployment. They should not be required to complete certain hours of volunteer work to “make themselves feel better.” Many have families, had great jobs, have incredible resumes… working for free is going to give them a boost in morale. They should be doing one thing while they are receiving unemployment benefits and that’s looking for work. It is not the state’s place to force someone to “do good.” It seems that Senator Albers has his economics a little backwards. If he wants to help the unemployed, he should spend more time helping companies and organizations get back in the business of hiring and less time trying to make the unemployed have a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.

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