Listen: for all our very real problems, there is so much stuff to feel great about, and so many reasons to stay engaged and upbeat.

And I don’t just mean DuPont’s great earnings report yesterday (hey, maybe we won’t double-dip after all).

For example:


Democrats for Education Reform – mostly wealthy business types, many of whom would have been moderate Republicans in an earlier era (when there were moderate Republicans), and who couldn’t abide what they perceived as the Party having been captured by the teacher’s unions – issued this assessment yesterday:

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be announcing the Round 2 Race to the Top finalists during a speech he is giving today at the National Press Club entitled “The Quiet Revolution.”

Race to the Top has effected more positive change in state and local education laws and policies than any other federal education program in history.

NCLB [No Child Left Behind] was akin to an IBM PC circa 1995 – uniform, powerful, but clunky. Race to the Top is a 2010 iPad – a flexible platform that provides policymakers with dynamic tools to create and adopt innovative apps and nimbly customize them to their specific needs.

It has mobilized policy-makers, principals and teachers to create the conditions that are needed to help schools meet high standards of excellence, and it has unleashed waves of creativity to reach that goal. Each state has taken its own unique route, yet the objective is common.

While not all states enacted the big changes we saw in states like Colorado, New York, Louisiana, and Rhode Island, the gains are nonetheless significant. Some states enacted solid reforms that are not revolutionary but take critical steps toward better teacher training and learning. Almost every state, with just a few exceptions, began to re-examine its education policies.

That process is ongoing and will not end with the announcement of the Round 2 finalists today or with the announcement of Round 2 winners in September. States and districts, teachers and parents, are still learning from each other about what’s possible, from both a political and policy perspective.

Our education system didn’t break overnight, and it will take more than one federal program and more than one 4-year grant cycle to fix it. What is indisputable, however, is that Race to the Top has put wind in the sails of the education reform movement and, in just a year and a half, has accelerated the pace of change more than any other past federal effort and much more than most of us dreamed possible.

For another example:


Did you know that, thanks to Dodd-Frank, the Financial Reform bill signed into law last week over all but unanimous Republican opposition, your broker now has – for the first time in history – a personal fiduciary responsibility to act in your best interest?

And did you know that brokerage firms can no longer force aggrieved clients into binding arbitration? (In those, the brokerage firm has this edge: arbitrators know that to get the assignment, and thus their income, they must be approved by both parties . . . and they know that the brokerage firms will have lots of future cases come to arbitration whereas for the client this is probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing.) You can still both agree to arbitration, but that’s no longer your only recourse.

Most people wind up with nothing – I’ve long quoted financial advisor Venita Van Caspel – “not because they plan to fail, but because they fail to plan.”

Which is relevant here, because in updating “The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need” – ever – which I have to do for a new edition every few years (I ask you: how embarrassing is that?), I checked this weekend to see whether she is still living. Happily, she is. But oh, gosh (thanks, Google), look at this: it seems that in 1989, Ms. Van Caspel – who for a while billed herself as “The First Lady of Financial Planning” – was accused of selling properties to limited partnerships owned by her clients without telling her clients she had an interest in them. When the partnerships tanked, and the truth came out, her clients sued . . . only to have the court agree that The First Lady of Financial Planning had been acting as their stock broker, not their financial planner, and thus had no duty to disclose the conflict.

Dodd-Frank now makes stock brokers fiduciaries, too.

Vote Democrat.


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