J. KARL MILLER: Teachers, presidential candidates fight their separate battles

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

During my time on the road these past few weeks — which included a reunion of my Marine Officer's Basic Class of 55 years ago, a visit with old friends and relatives and a tour of the nation's capital — the major news stories were the Chicago teachers' strike, the NFL referee lockout, the Libya/Middle East uprising and the ongoing presidential campaign.

The first two were settled, unfortunately in favor of the striking unions. Chicago's teachers, who are among the highest paid and work the shortest hours of any major school district, were offered a 17 percent pay raise over the next four years (they were originally asking for 30 over two years).  Their response was to strike, citing unfair teacher evaluations and demanding rehires on a basis of seniority rather than one of merit as the primary objections.

After a week went by, the teachers got most of their demands, the students lost a week of classes and the school district still has a disastrous rate of 79 percent of eighth-graders unable to read proficiently. Who was the winner?

My only comment on the NFL referees' lockout and subsequent settlement is one of amusement over hysteria and histrionics by fans and players alike being blown out of proportion by sports writers, most of whom have never officiated any sport and have little knowledge of the rules. As one who has done it, refereeing football is far from rocket science — the major problem of the replacement officials was one of little experience of working together.

In spite of the hype and fury alleging referee incompetence, NFL attendance remained at 2011 levels, as did hot dog and beer sales. Now that the lockout is over, pro football officiating will be again evaluated by the home crowd, and the referees, being human, will continue to make some bad calls. So, what else is new?

The Libya/Middle East attacks are still under investigation. Accordingly, any conjecture would be premature and possibly unfair. Nevertheless, the administration must answer some tough questions concerning security precautions, intelligence procedure and some obviously blatant misjudgments and misstatements immediately following the attacks.

The current presidential campaign and reported polling data remain an enigma to this columnist. In one corner we have a candidate with a virtually unblemished record of success as a governor, a business leader and president and CEO of the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

In the other corner, we have arguably, the least experienced in executive leadership ever elected to the U.S. presidency since its founding. Proponents and opponents may disagree (and do) as to who is at fault; nevertheless, only the most stubborn of supporters can dredge up any measure of optimism from his leadership of the last four years.

Unemployment has remained at about 8 percent, the national debt has soared from $10 trillion to nearly $16 trillion in less than four years, and the state of the economy has ranged from stagnant to anemic. Admittedly, President Barack Obama inherited a floundering ship — but, in June 2009, the Bush recession was declared over — thus, the economy became the property of the president-elect.

President Obama was swept into office amid strong bipartisan support and an aura of warmth and good feelings. In my opinion, he squandered that considerable political capital along with a veto-proof Congress by opting for unpopular measures such as health care and cap-and-trade legislation in lieu of pursuing job creation.

Consequently, to make a long story short, the president owns a resume rather difficult to champion. Expediently, he has attacked his opponent, Gov. Mitt Romney for not paying enough taxes, for being unduly wealthy, for "hiding" his riches in offshore accounts, for a failure to identify with the middle class and for anything else that obfuscates his thus far uninspired administration.

Accordingly, it is difficult to understand just how and why the president continues to enjoy a lead in most polls. Yes, he was not dealt a particularly winning hand; however, the cards he has chosen have failed to improve it.

By a virtually unanimous decision, the first debate was won handily by Romney as he was well prepared and owns a considerable advantage in economic and business acumen. But, this is the first of three debates — expect the president to rebound in strength; the initial underestimation of Romney won't be repeated. And history has taught one lesson — a good debate won't guarantee a win, but a poor one will cause a loss.

For this stagnant economy to rebound, there must be a creation of jobs. One might view each candidate's relative success in this venue by considering Staples and Solyndra.

J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via email at Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.

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Christopher Foote October 10, 2012 | 9:02 a.m.

Private sector job growth under the current president has been far better than under his predecessor.
On 2/1/01 there were 111,623,000 private sector jobs.
On 2/1/09 there were 110,260,000 private sector jobs
Gain/loss = -1.3 million jobs
On 9/01/2012 there were 111,499,000 private sector jobs
Gain/loss = +1.2 million jobs.
(Data from the BLS, compiled here:

The reason the unemployment rate is so high is that public sector jobs have actually declined considerably (-600,000) since the president took office.

Mr. Romney proposes the exact same economic policies as Mr. Bush enacted (regressive tax cuts, and deregulation). Mr. Romney also employs many of the same people that were economic advisors to Mr. Bush. A Romney administration would be very similar to the Bush administration with respect to economic policy.

My question to Mr. Miller, is what economic metric is he using that leads him to endorse Romney (and by extension Bush era economic policies), since he appears dismissive of private sector jobs growth. I would think that private sector jobs growth would be the only metric that really matters, but than I am not a propagandist.

(Report Comment)
Rich C. October 10, 2012 | 9:18 a.m.

Second debate will no doubt be very different.

There's only so many times Romney can flip-flop.

Have you seen the Youtube videos of Romney debating himself? Quite comical..and pathetic.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams October 10, 2012 | 10:19 a.m.

873,000 workers were added in September?

Unemployment dropped to 7.8% from 8.3% over the course of two months?

My sides hurt.

PS: I wonder how many companies (like restaurants) will limit worker hours over the next year. But, they'll still be employed which is better than unemployed, I guess.

PSS: We were supposed to be out of all this in 2009. Is it 2009 yet?

(Report Comment)
frank christian October 10, 2012 | 11:23 a.m.

R. Cookley - "Second debate will no doubt be very different."

What is your take on tomorrows V.P. debate?

We anxiously await your post after the 2nd Presidential debate.

(Report Comment)
frank christian October 10, 2012 | 11:56 a.m.

"Mr. Romney proposes the exact same economic policies as Mr. Bush enacted", as did Mr. Clinton (after R' takeover of his Congress), which provided us a balanced budget, debt reduction, welfare reform and and a unemployment rate of 4.6%, before the effects of the Clinton, Dodd, Frank, chaos overcame us.

"Mr. Bush enacted (regressive tax cuts, and deregulation)" Brit Hume, Fox News, stated the Bush tax cuts provided revenue to keep deficits, in spite of the wars, low, during 2005,6,7, when the bill signed in 1999, by Clinton started our real estate loan meltdown.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams October 10, 2012 | 12:07 p.m.

Frank: The second debate will certainly be different. The question

I think it depends upon a few factors. Does Obama go on the attack? How does Romney respond? Does a harsh attack backfire because Obama does it poorly and makes the opposite impression of that which is desired? Does Obama even want a second term? Is his heart in it? How prepared and glib is Romney?

Personally, I think a harsh attack is desired, wanted, and demanded by the anger of the base, even if it results in Obama going down in flames. Human nature is such that some folks love to bite off their own nose to spite their face just for the feel-good moment.

It'll be interesting, to be sure. I'm thinking the next debate will either spell Obama's demise for this election or it will bring it back to equal in the polling.

Of course, the VP debate may have a bigger impact than most of us have thought about. Biden has to win.....big. Folks understand that he is one heartbeat from the Presidency and his mouth hasn't been reassuring for many years. If Biden does poorly, I'm thinking that has an immediate and negative impact upon Obama's performance before the performance even occurs.

But the same is true for Ryan.

PS: Obama should have dumped Biden for Hillary. If he had, this election would be a slam-dunk. I wouldn't have liked it much, but it would still have been a slam-dunk.

(Report Comment)
Rich C. October 10, 2012 | 12:27 p.m.

I'm not wanting Obama to attack Romney.

Just merely call him on his lies and flip-flops.

(Report Comment)
frank christian October 10, 2012 | 2:13 p.m.

Mike W. - "The second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which citizens will ask questions of the candidates on foreign and domestic issues." What do you suppose BO will "attack" with, on this subject? He and the 2nd most loved liberal, Hillary C. are now in the midst of the most scandalous foreign policy cover-up since firearms to drug lords. Oh wait, that is Obama as well, isn't it?

Imo, Romney did what many had accused him of not doing. Pointedly smashing BO in the mouth with each of his failures one after the other. (I liked, you have been accused of picking "winners and losers" with your 90B$ green energy subsidies. MR named the bankruptcies and stated "You just pick losers!") I can't imagine MR changing that approach.

Pundits, yes conservative ones, have stated Biden (been in hiding for a week?) will know the "numbers" involved in the debate. Ryan will also know them and Understand them! Imo, you will think BO got off easy compared to Biden's demise. I heard that pollsters are now noting more voters are identifying themselves as Republicans for the polling interviews. Not a shoo-in but I look for Romney as President. Of course if they can't retrieve the Senate any change will be hard to come by.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams October 10, 2012 | 2:59 p.m.

"Just merely call him on his lies and flip-flops."

Well, given much of America's apparent opinion of Obama's record, there's not much else to defend. Unless you use Big Bird, of course.

Hey, this is politics as it has always been. Every single article I've seen on "truth telling" shows BOTH men not exactly on target with the whole truth. Rather, both have agendas and both spin any small but real truth into some bigger "truth" to further their agenda. They use grains of truth to provoke unwarranted inferences within the electorate. It's silly and wrong, but there ya go.

But keep in mind I sat and watched the hatchet job done on GWB his last 2 years. Hell, I've watched similar things since the dayz of Eisenhauer. It ain't pretty and only a youthful person would think this type of thing started either recently or on the day they were born. But I'm rather unsympathetic towards progressives crying foul given their own behavior a few, short years ago. Don't cry crocodile tears and expect sympathy....or is it "Don't cry for me, Argentina?"

I keep hearing rumblings about some sort of election money scandal within the Obama campaign....something about untraceable money coming in through credit cards. What's up with that, if anything?

PS: It will be interesting to see how the President handles the Libya issue in the next debate. I'm sure Romney will bring up that issue, plus Syria.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams October 10, 2012 | 6:14 p.m.

Uh oh. A few stories showing up suggesting a revolt by businessman/woman against policies of this Presidency, and the words ain't pretty.

Much larger union strikes have started that way........small, and then not.

We'll see.

PS: I wouldn't start or expand right now. Rather buy farmland and hope the 1930s drought isn't back after an 80 year hiatus.

(Report Comment)
frank christian October 10, 2012 | 8:35 p.m.

"Uh oh. A few stories showing up suggesting a revolt by businessman/woman against policies of this Presidency, and the words ain't pretty."

Pew Center now shows Romney even with Obama among women.

"I keep hearing rumblings about some sort of election money scandal within the Obama campaign" It seems others have filter technology to prevent illegal campaign donations from being accepted. Obama's campaign does not. Sort of like Clinton, many will go to jail after the election, for campaign fraud, but Clinton and Obama will remain free.

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush October 10, 2012 | 10:11 p.m.

Love ya, Foote! Wading
Into the fracas with facts -
Your calm persistence.

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller October 11, 2012 | 7:36 p.m.

Mr Foote,

I see you are infected with the identical malady that has afflicted President Obama for more than four years. Obama was sworn in as President in January 2009 and the "Bush Recession" was declared over in June 2oo9. Continuing to blame George Bush is nothing more than an attempt to avoid reality.

(Report Comment)

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