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Opinion

There is an old saying, “A real leader faces the music, even when he doesn’t like the tune.” After years of mismanagement, our state’s economy has been weighed down by $2.5 billion owed to Washington for our unemployment insurance debt. We were forced to borrow this money from the federal government during the Great Recession. We incurred this debt because the General Assembly’s prior management team gave the most generous unemployment benefits in the southeast and never bothered to save adequate rainy day funds for a potential economic downturn that was bound to occur.

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I asked my son Nick if what he learned from MBA school was necessary for doing his job well. Somewhat surprisingly, he said, no. The knowledge gained during the two additional years of college wasn't essential to job performance. In essence, he paid for a very expensive screening mechanism – something the school and the bank were better off for.

Unfortunately, many graduates don't end up with a high-paying position to offset their high student loans. Nationally, student loan debt is estimated at a trillion dollars, or nearly $30,000 a person on average. No doubt, there are those who would be thrilled if they only owed the “average” amount. The mind may be a “terrible thing to waste,” but somewhere along the way it has become a very expensive thing to educate.

Many economists predict that student debt will be the next financial bubble. However, unlike a house or a car, a college degree can't be repoed. Most student loans are not forgiven by filing bankruptcy. You may forget what you learned in school, but the loan officer isn't going to forget what you paid for it. The economic impact transcends into other areas. Debt-strapped individuals find it harder to buy a home or start a business, further hampering the general economy as well as their general wellbeing.

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Just as the 9/11 terrorist attacks created a watershed between the freedoms we enjoyed and our awareness of America’s vulnerability to attack, so the spate of school shootings over the past 10- plus years from Columbine to Newtown has drastically altered the way young people are perceived and treated, transforming them from innocent bystanders into both victims and culprits. Consequently, school officials, attempting to both protect and control young people, have adopted draconian zero tolerance policies, stringent security measures and cutting-edge technologies that have all but transformed the schools into quasi-prisons.

In their zeal to make the schools safer, school officials have succumbed to a near-manic paranoia about anything even remotely connected to guns and violence, such that a child who brings a piece of paper loosely shaped like a gun to school is treated as harshly as the youngster who brings an actual gun. Yet by majoring in minors, as it were, treating all students as suspects and harshly punishing kids for innocent mistakes, the schools are setting themselves and us up for failure—not only by focusing on the wrong individuals and allowing true threats to go undetected but also by treating young people as if they have no rights, thereby laying the groundwork for future generations that are altogether ignorant of their rights as citizens and unprepared to defend them.

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Lance Armstrong’s metamorphosis from one of the greatest and admired athletes of all time to one of the greatest cheats in sports history, is fascinating. His Mount Olympus sports-world residency exceeded the quality of his perceived character.

If Lance had simply been lying concerning his constant denials of doping, I could be more sympathetic. However, he wasn't content with merely circumventing the cycling rules like many of his competitors had done. Armstrong was as aggressive using the media and legal system to squash those who dared tell the truth about him as he was conquering the mountains in his numerous Tour de France victories. Excuse me – non-victories. Now, with a measure of poetic justice, the Armstrong lawsuits are not being initiated by him but against him.

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