Scott Has Delivered on Promise to Create Jobs

October 14, 2013  |  No Comments  |  by Barney Bishop  |  Columns

Published in: Context Florida

The growing conventional wisdom is that former Gov. Charlie Crist is a shoo-in to become Florida’s next governor.  Conventional wisdom is wrong.

The mainstream media in Florida is going to endorse Charlie.  They love him because he loves the press and knows how to whip up a crowd with his rhetorical talents.  There certainly is no question that Charlie is a gifted speaker. He’s also photogenic and personable. He supports everything that everyone wants.

But the problem is that Charlie has been on both sides of just about every issue at one time or another, save for the environment.

A recent blog mentioned that Charlie’s problem is not with elected Democrats but with the party’s rank-and-file.  Hogwash.

Grass-roots Dems don’t really care who their nominee is so long as he or she has the chance to win. Remember that no Democrat has been elected governor since Lawton Chiles.  It’s the elected Democrats who are worried because of the significant baggage that Charlie will lug into the race.

Now that Alex Sink has dropped out of the race, Charlie has a clear shot at the nomination, unless U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson decides to get into the race, which is unlikely.  I mean Nelson is in the twilight of his career and he has more than five years left in his Senate term. More important, he never has to solicit another campaign contribution again.

As for Gov. Rick Scott, he certainly is not the fave among reporters. However, he has kept his eye on the ball on the one issue that matters most to everyone – job creation.

Florida’s job growth has been significant and the state has recovered from the Great Recession better than most states.  Florida’s unemployment rate continues improve and remains below the national rate.

In addition, Scott has cut taxes, reduced state debt by $2 billion, made state employees pay into their pensions, reduced property taxes and held teachers to account for the performance of their students.  Sure he cut education spending, but so did just about every other governor in the country.

At the same time, when state revenues started increasing, he invested heavily in education.  This governor even called for the state’s higher education system to produce a $10,000. Had a Democratic governor proposed this, the newspapers would have pronounced him or her a genius.

Mind you that this election will be close because of what Scott is not.  He’s not slick, he’s not a rhetorical stem-winder, he’s not a back slapper. He’s not, well, a politician.

He’s a businessman who promised to focus on job creation.  As a result, Florida was recently named by Area Development, a business magazine, as the No. 1 state for renewed consideration after the recession.

Convincing companies to move to our state isn’t easy.  It takes time  and perseverance, and a lot of other states are trying to do the same thing.  The difference is that Scott and this Legislature are making Florida attractive to companies.  Job creation is the key and Scott has delivered.

Public Education Has Failed to Prepare Most Grads for Workplace

October 14, 2013  |  No Comments  |  by Barney Bishop  |  Columns

Published in: Context Florida

Education continues to be contentious in Florida and for good reason.

Public education has failed miserably to adequately prepare most graduates for the workplace.  I say most because students in the top 10 to 15 percent of their class do well. But the rest are at best mediocre.

I’m a well-taught product of Florida’s public education but that was two generations ago and much has happened since then.  For most employers, a high school or college degree is less meaningful than it once was.  No longer can employers depend on a piece of sheepskin to demonstrate that the individual possessing it has rudimentary skills.

Employers have discovered that grade inflation has almost become the norm.  Consequently, when many of today’s graduates are asked to think outside of the box, compose a lucid memorandum, draft a grammatically correct letter, or succinctly explain an idea, they often fail.

America’s education system for many students has not kept pace with the demands of our technologically driven world.

That’s why we were fortunate that during Gov. Jeb Bush’s tenure – and since – he dedicated himself to becoming Florida’s “Education Governor.”  Some will disagree with his ideas, but no one can argue about Florida’s improving educational outcomes.

His idea of doing away with social promotion was cutting edge even though it still exists.  His idea of every student selecting a career path in the sixth grade was brilliant because it helps a student to focus on a goal and work toward it.

Likewise, the FCAT addressed the need for students to be tested and compared to other Florida students.  Now Common Core has been presented as a way for all American students to be compared on core competencies.

And while I hope that Florida students will do well compared to students in other states, what we really need to focus on is the ability of our students to compete with students in South Korea, China, Singapore and Japan.

Recently the Council for Aid to Education created a new standardized test called the Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus (CLA+). It is designed to demonstrate to employers what a graduate can actually do.  “Employers want to see something that they can rely on,” according to Michael Poliakoff, vice president of policy for the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.

“The test will measure analysis, problem-solving, writing, quantitative reasoning and reading” and will be administered to seniors at a growing number of colleges and universities around the country.

We need to reform America’s educational system and resist the tendency to defend the status quo.

If you’re frustrated because your child can’t get a job, think about how employers feel about the lack of quality graduates they deal with every day.  Reforming education is essential: Just ask any employer.

A Pox on Both Political Parties

October 14, 2013  |  No Comments  |  by Barney Bishop  |  Columns

Published in: Context Florida

Our beautiful 237-year experiment in democracy has brought us to a difficult crossroad.  Either we are going to continue to lurch from financial crisis to financial crisis or someone in Washington, D.C., is going to have to get over their childish temper tantrums.

At this point in time I’m ready to declare a pox on both political parties for their unwillingness to sit down and negotiate.

The problem is that both political parties are trying to score political points at each other’s expense and America is the one suffering for it.

Instead, all of us should be demanding that our elected leaders put aside their important differences and do the country’s business.  Note that I acknowledged that the differences are important, but in a country where compromise is expected everyday by every average American, why do we allow our politicians to behave like spoiled, rotten children?

Take President Obama, for example.  He came in riding on a white steed and he promised us all “change.”  He hasn’t changed a single way that Washington does business.  Instead, he now boldly says that he will not “negotiate” on the debt limit.  Mr. President, we (I use the word “we” loosely because I didn’t vote for him either time – but he is still the president) elected you to lead this country, and you’re going to go down in history as the most obstinate president we’ve ever had.

So they want to cut the heart out of your health-care program.  Is that a surprise to anyone given the way it was passed, without any bipartisan support?

Inasmuch as the Republicans control the House, you are going to have to work with them because they are part of our government.  They have a voice in the affairs of this country and you can’t ignore them without making this country look like any run-of-the-mill banana republic.

Oh, you can blame the Republicans all you want, but everyone knows in any fight that there is generally plenty of blame to go around.

Republicans, you have to bear responsibility for your actions as well.  Look, I loathe Obamacare.  But to prove what you are saying, you have to have enough faith in what you’re preaching.  Get it?

Obamacare is going to collapse of its own weight.  It’s too massive, too unworkable, too expensive, too confusing and for all of the promises that were made, very little if any of it is ever going to come true.

If the unions, who supported this ill-fated idea, can now say with a straight face that the working men and women of this country are going to get screwed by this socialistic medical debacle, isn’t that good enough for you?

Don’t defund Obamacare now, because your views, which by the way are shared by the vast majority of independents (and these are the folks that you want in any election!), will never get proven.  If you are ever successful in defunding Obamacare, the Democrats are just going to say it failed because you made it fail.  Let it fail on its own – because it will!

And to show what little respect both Dems and Repubs have for the intelligence of the American people, you then cut yourselves and your staff in for an exemption on Obamacare?  How despicable can y’all be?

I say again, a pox on both of your political parties.  Because if you think that the tea party movement is unwieldy, unorthodox and unforgiving, wait until you stir the common folk across this land. Then we’ll finally realize that the only thing important to each of you is your own measly existence — at the expense of the greatest political experiment ever devised by mankind.