This 'n' that on supermen, Social Security, and being happy

Friday, October 16, 2009

Putting one little word after another while trying to make sense of several things may not solve any of them, but it could pollinate our community discussion on a few things.

The dismissal of the schools director raises questions of money and the process. It's not just the process of elimination that ought to be examined. How such school leaders are selected -- hired, actually -- needs re-examination.

The question of elected vs. hired superintendents came up while writing stories about the National Education Association' annual convention in Washington, D.C. A small town Maryland daily editor pointed out that the state recently changed its system and some folks weren't so sure hired superintendents were better than those elected locally.

Later, some insiders speaking on a condition of anonymity said there's something of a game being played. Sometimes, the tenure of superintendents isn't much more than -- and is seen here and now as shorter -- than the four-year term of an elected superintendent. As a result, the hired leader wants a golden parachute in case things don't work out.

That's seen as increasing costs one way or the other.

At least elected superintendents can say they serve the public because they have their own, county-wide constituency. And then, the elected school board members won't be blamed for a poor hiring choice.

The problem is that changing it is a state decision. Will a Republican-controlled Tennessee General Assembly change it?

Meanwhile, one of our better-researched letter writers here raises remarkable points about the Social Security system. His letter appears on this page today.

It brought back memories of a suggestion a few years ago. It was to let people invest Social Security benefits -- those that they'd amassed before their retirement age -- in the stock market.

Suppose laws had been changed to make that possible. A great deal of money would have been pumped into the market. Would it have prevented or postponed the recession that came from the several financial crisis including the bundled housing mortgage debacle? How much more would have been lost to the Ponzi schemers' pyramids epitomized by Bernie Madoff who made off with billions of dollars and landed in jail?

I don't know, but what went down is coming back up now. A neighboring newspaper led its front page with an Associated Press report that a preponderance of economists say the recession is over, or almost over, or that there's light at the end of the tunnel.

There's been a rebound since 9-11 scared Wall Street. The dot-com bubble burst went away. And the woes of the early 1980s are history, just as there's been some recessionary period after each war.

Reminds me of Lyndon Johnson's quote in one of David Brinkley's books.

During a campaign stop in Ohio during the 1964 election. There was a ruckus between LBJ fans and other folks holding Goldwater posters.

"Johnson put aside his prepared text, looked out from under his creased and furrowed brow, and said, "Now don't pay any attention to all that. You folks come on and be happy."

Brinkly didn't say whether that worked for LBJ, but there were a lot of happy people at the Goats Music and More Festival last weekend. It substantiates a social theory that such programs can prevent problems. It's been repeated in recreation committee meetings elsewhere and there are other government programs that step in when and where private business can't or would find it unprofitable. Non-profit youth, church and adult ball teams and their leagues are one example. High school football, band and cheers are another. State Fairs are a lot of fun, too.