TheDC Morning: Obama flip-flops on standardized testing, vouchers

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1.) Former Obama campaign flack makes a mess at DHS — The hits just keep on coming for the Department of Homeland Security. Investigations by the Associated Press and the House Oversight Committee have found that political employees within the department have methodically blocked or interfered with FOIA requests. The latest evidence of FOIA shenanigans comes in the form of an email chain and testimony from Department of Homeland Security FOIA officer Catherine Papoi, who claims that a department lawyer by the name of Willard “Clint” Carte repeatedly insisted that Papoi and her team make unnecessary or “politically sensitive” redactions. Carte’s title when he allegedly was interfering with Papoi’s work in 2010 was “confidential assistant.” Carte had a different job description in 2008, when he was the “new media director” for Obama for America, and tasked with organizing West Virginia voters for Organizing for America. But don’t blame DHS for hiring a campaign operative. According to a statement released earlier this week, the agency is apparently under the impression that “only attorneys and other FOIA professionals determined the substance of redactions.”

2.) Darth Schumer ‘did us a favor,’ say Republicans — “Republican leaders wasted little time playing up reports Tuesday that New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the third-ranking Senate Democrat, told other members of his party that the caucus had urged him to start calling Republican budget cut proposals ‘extreme’ during the public battle between the parties of government spending,” reports TheDC’s Chris Moody. Schumer blew his cover during a conference call with reporters. Under the impression that the call was muted, Schumer told the other Democrats on the call “to portray John A. Boehner of Ohio, the speaker of the House, as painted into a box by the Tea Party, and to decry the spending cuts that he wants as extreme,” because “that is what the caucus instructed me to use this week.” After two minutes of discussing strategery with his colleagues, Schumer realized the reporters could hear what he was saying. House Republicans are predictably thrilled by the foible. “You heard his comment. He’s basically instructing his members to deem any spending cut unreasonable. Any spending cut. So clearly they’re not serious,” Rep. Eric Cantor told reporters.

3.) Budget debate suggests public education’s problems date back at least to Harry Reid’s time in math class — The White House has supposedly offered to trim an additional $20 billion in spending. By the time this offer made it in one of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s ears and out his mouth, the number was $70 billion. That’s a big jump, and one House Republicans–including those mouthy, tempestuous Tea Party freshmen–would likely get behind in a heartbeat. But as National Review’s Andrew Stiles points out, Reid presumably “arrives at that figure by taking the $40 billion ‘cut’ by failing to enact President Obama’s 2011 budget, plus the $10 billion cut by the recently-passed short-term resolutions and now this additional $20 billion. In reality, it would constitute a spending cut of about $30 billion.” When asked about the $20 billion cut, Republican aides said they’d yet to see an offer from the White House. Boehner’s response: “Nothing can be agreed to until everything is agreed to.”

4.) Obama slams his own education policies — A former Obama fundraiser and retired teacher dings Obama on WaPo’s education blog for talking out both sides of his mouth. At an education townhall meeting hosted by Univision, Pres. Obama told the audience, “One thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching to the test. Because then you’re not learning about the world; you’re not learning about different cultures, you’re not learning about science, you’re not learning about math. All you’re learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and the little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test.” Anthony Cody, a retired science teacher from California, asks the pertinent question: “Is President Obama aware that Race to the Top requires states to tie teacher pay and evaluations to student test scores?” As if flip-flopping on standardized testing weren’t enough, the OMB released a statement yesterday that read, “[T]his Administration is opposed the creation or expansion of voucher programs” in Washington, D.C. Just two years ago, Obama seemed to be a big fan of D.C.’s voucher program. The times they are a-changin’.

5.) HAMP pretty much killed itself — “An examination of federal documents and lawsuits, and interviews with legislators, state attorneys general, housing counselors, homeowners and regulators, reveal a federal mortgage modification program crippled by weak oversight, conflicts of interest, mind-numbing complexity and poor performance by many participating banks,” reports the NYT. Here are some of the problems: “The companies that service mortgages, typically large banks, continually lose homeowner paperwork and incorrectly tell homeowners that they must be delinquent to qualify; Congress set aside $50 billion for foreclosure prevention, amid administration projections that three million to four million homeowners would benefit from modifications. So far, the Treasury Department, which oversees the program, has spent slightly more than $1 billion, and just 607,000 homeowners have received permanent loan modifications (of those, 11 percent have defaulted); Treasury officials have not fined any servicers, and the government-controlled company hired by the Treasury to oversee the program has expressed reluctance to crack down on banks.” Now, imagine if TARP had been executed this poorly.

6.) Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Jim Jordan are drunk (with power) — If there’s one thing Republicans and Democrats can agree on, it’s that Americans should have less freedom. In the case of a bill being lobbied for by the National Beer Wholesalers Association, Americans should have less freedom to purchase direct-to-consumer booze. “Even though direct-shipping only constitutes 1 percent of all sales, the wholesalers fear that the ruling is a chink in their armor, and could lead to larger-scale diminution of their power. The legislation in question would help stop any of that slippage and keep alcohol regulation firmly in the hands of the state regulators, with whom home-state wholesalers have a cozy relationship,” reports National Journal. Advocates for the legislation say that states should be able to write their own policies, but opponents say that states are too cozy with wholesalers. This paradox was best illustrated by Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who said during his congressional testimony, “When people of Salt Lake City feel differently about alcohol than the people in Detroit, that is the beauty of the American system.” That statement, says NJ, was prepared by the National Beer Wholesalers Association.

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