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Sun., Nov. 21, 2010

Negativity may boomerang

I understand there is a lot of anger out there and that it played out during the recent election. So I thought I would try to reduce the tension by piercing some misunderstandings. A Bloomberg Poll taken shortly before the election found that voters were mad at some things that just weren’t true.

By a 2-to-1 margin, respondents said the federal government had raised their taxes in the past year. Not true. In fact, taxes were cut by about $240 billion, and the middle class largely benefited. It seems that most people don’t realize that about one-third of the congressional stimulus package included tax cuts.

Also, 60 percent of respondents said that the money from the Troubled Assets Relief Program was forever lost. Wrong. Most of the TARP money loaned to banks has been paid back with interest.

Finally, 61 percent of respondents said the economy has shrunk this year. Wrong. The economy stopped contracting in the summer of 2009. From October 2009 to October 2010 the economy grew by 3.1 percent. The stock market has gained considerably over its March 2009 low.

I doubt this will lower anybody’s blood pressure. There’s still plenty of bad news out there. But the interesting dynamic now is that the new leaders who helped paint this overly negative portrait now own it.

Short takes. I dislike all of the airport screening, but not as much as the alternative.

• Let’s face it: If we could devise a way that “other people” got the enhanced pat-down treatment at airports, we’d probably be fine with it. Most Americans didn’t squawk at Muslims being tortured, because they knew it would never happen to them. As always, the price of liberty is negotiable.

• Former President George W. Bush said he was shocked and sickened when weapons of mass destruction were not found in Iraq. In other words, he was stunned that U.N. inspectors were right and that exiled Iraqi Ahmed Chalabi and administrative partisans were wrong. It’s sickening, all right.

• Fearing that the Food and Drug Administration will eventually ban alcoholic caffeine drinks, some people are buying as much as they can. Hey, knock yourself out. Just don’t endanger others.

• Speaking of hoarding, remember the run on weapons and ammunition after the election of President Barack Obama? Two years later and there still hasn’t been a single new law that would justify this fear of government gun-grabbing. Want your money back? Try the National Rifle Association. It ran a series of ads in 2008 that stoked fears. But as noted at the time, the campaign was full of holes. The NRA responded by saying it preferred its “facts,” which included Obama’s purported desire to ban the use of firearms for home defense, ban the manufacture and ownership of handguns and ban hunting ammunition. Any of that happen in your neck of the woods?

• So after the Election Day shellacking, House Democrats re-elected Nancy Pelosi as their leader. Washington State University football coach Paul Wulff must like this line of reasoning.

• A good title for a local melodrama would be “The Prisoner of Second Avenue.” As Col. Klink noted on “Hogan’s Heroes,” there is no escape.

• Spokane firefighters are the first responders to the mayor’s plea for wage and benefit concessions to help the city dig out of a budget hole. Good job. Hope others follow suit.

Add it up. Some sobering figures from Excellent Schools Now, a coalition of Washington state interests that want to reform education:

• Half of children are not ready to succeed by the time they reach kindergarten.

• Washington state is one of only a few states where the achievement gap is growing.

• We rank 46th in the nation on the chance for college by age 19.

• To fill current shortages, the state will need 400 science teachers and 460 math teachers.

• In the class of 2008, 54 percent of students entering community or technical colleges needed remedial course work.

• Of the 36 states that vied for federal Race to the Top funds, only four finished behind Washington state.

The simple response is to indict the educational system. In fact, we all need to look in the mirror.

Associate Editor Gary Crooks can be reached at or (509) 459-5026.

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