Posted on 19 November 2011
A friend recently forwarded me an email blast proclaiming that followers of the Occupy Wall Street movement are blind to the benefits of modern Capitalism (or some such). Even though the blast turned out to be a fundraising device from Hillsdale College, I still found the argument intriguing. Here’s why:
I often argue that Tea Party advocates are blind to the benefits of government subsidies. I usually start with the establishment of the Boston Common and end somewhere beyond the Interstate Highway System.
But what an amazing parallelism of viewpoints. Could we indeed be in the midst of both blind Occupiers and blind Tea Partiers — each with their own type of blindness? If this is the case, who are the truly sighted?
In this particular case, it might be the fundraisers.
Posted on 17 November 2011
How do states-rights advocates justify this mandate by the federal government?
The House passed legislation on Wednesday that would require states that issue concealed gun permits to recognize similar licenses from other states. The vote was 272 to 154. NYT
Since when is carrying a concealed weapon an inalienable right?
Posted on 13 November 2011
Another cycle in the free enterprise vs. public safety debate:
Some Michigan residents make annual pre-Fourth of July treks into neighboring states to buy more powerful consumer fireworks that are illegal at home.
Those clandestine road trips could become unnecessary if legislation recently approved by the Michigan Legislature becomes law. A bill awaiting Gov. Rick Snyder’s review would expand the types of fireworks that can be legally sold in the state without the buyers needing special permits.
In my younger days, we all lit sparklers and, typically under strict parental supervision, waved the hot wands proudly. And we exploded cherry bombs and other types of fireworks. Somebody always offered something that was illegal.
Now it seems that fireworks, whether legal or illegal, are bursting with renewed popularity. Last summer, I had to stop a bombardment at the public access, and we all watched nervously to see if a nearby willow tree would catch on fire.
Looks like what is ‘good for business’ is ascending again in the state. Aren’t there other things more important these days?
Posted on 11 November 2011
“Whatever Happened to Discipline and Hard Work?” NYT Editorial
Education is examined here as a contributor to income inequality.
Perhaps most problematic, though, is that something other than plutocrat-friendly policies is largely responsible for the growing inequality. That something is education and skills. True, not every degree is a passport to a job. Freshly-minted degree holders, especially from lower-quality programs, are finding it particularly hard to get a job nowadays, because they are competing with experienced workers who are also jobless. Nevertheless, the unemployment rate for those with degrees is one-third the unemployment rate for those without a high school diploma.
Close examination suggests that the single biggest difference between those at or above the top tenth percentile of the income distribution and those below the 50th percentile is that the former have a degree or two while the latter, typically, do not. Raghuram Rajan in Project Syndicate
It’s important to include education attainment in the discussion, but it doesn’t automatically dismiss a ‘progressive economist’ view of the situation. If you agree with me that we are dismantling the broad-based, universal education system, which used to distinguish us from Europe and elsewhere, then education is really just one more factor that makes income inequality worse. Now less-well-off students get a sub-standard education compared with others.
Posted on 04 November 2011
Here are two important points of view on the recent in-the-news focus on income inequality in America.
UPDATE (Nov 7): For more perspective, check out these Letters to the Editor.
UPDATE (Nov 4): Appears at end
The Wrong Inequality
The zooming wealth of the top 1 percent is a problem, but it’s not nearly as big a problem as the tens of millions of Americans who have dropped out of high school or college. It’s not nearly as big a problem as the 40 percent of children who are born out of wedlock. It’s not nearly as big a problem as the nation’s stagnant human capital, its stagnant social mobility and the disorganized social fabric for the bottom 50 percent. NYT
Justice, inequality and the 99 percent
Thanks to the technological advances made possible by free enterprise, the poor in the United States live better today — with indoor plumbing, smartphones, cable TV and potable water, among other things — than royalty lived a century or two ago.
But the surge in income and wealth inequality we’ve seen in recent decades breaks with this pattern. Virtually all the benefits of growth have gone to the top 1 percent, and ultimately to the top sliver of the top 1 percent, while the rest of the country has stagnated or lost ground. Meanwhile, anyone who’s spent time in high-poverty schools and communities knows that, for all the rhetoric, America’s efforts to make opportunity more equal are a charade. WaPo
Read both articles. The authors make valid points – from seemingly polar opposite ideologies. So why can’t America tackle both types of income inequality? It doesn’t seem either…or to me.
Here is an important point about the need for increased economic mobility.
We need economic mobility, not equality, writes Michael Gerson: “the most important measure of U.S. economic success is not income equality but social mobility. Economic inequality can be justified in a fluid society, in which economic advancement is a realistic goal. Economic inequality in the absence of economic mobility amounts to a class system in which the circumstances of birth are the main economic blessing or curse…There remains a considerable amount of economic mobility, upward and downward, in the middle class. But nearer the bottom of the income scale, upward mobility is weak and stuck. As a result, according to the Economic Mobility Project, the U.S. economy is less fluid than the economies of Canada, France, Germany or the Scandinavian countries.” (Source: Ezra Klein, Wonkblog, Nov. 4, 2011)
Posted on 10 October 2011
The Internet has fostered a way to aggregate public opinion easily, almost casually. Online straw polls have popped up everywhere, including on the Web site of our own Record-Eagle. Here is a typical example:
October 10, 2011
Often responding is fun to do but, just like reading the comics, this polling should not be thought of as a serious pursuit. The questions are not carefully crafted nor explained. The practice is totally unscientific. The results are meaningless.
In our example, the question approaches ‘motherhood’ in its ability to elicit a Yes vote. Who votes against motherhood? Or Great Lakes protection? When I checked, Yes had received over 90% of the vote. So what?
Let’s not make policy based on such straw polls. Or justify policies that are made. Or even think that we have learned anything from such polls. Just have fun.
Posted on 29 September 2011
Article points to structural flaws, not politics, as the cause.
Even though most health care providers and insurers are private, the overall system is not market-driven, so cost restraint is inadequate. Instead, much of health care is paid for by third parties, usually employers, and the “buyers,” usually employees, are largely oblivious to the price of services they receive beyond co-pays and deductibles. A large portion of the medical industry amounts to: Buy our product and let others pay.
Combine this disconnect with an aging, overweight population and the development of miraculous but expensive new treatments, and you have the recipe for rising premiums. USA Today
Posted on 23 September 2011
Paul Solman writes in PBS online about the extreme income inequality that exists in the United States today. Here are the helpful charts. PBS
?? writes in The Christian Science Monitor about rising income inequality in the United States.
Posted on 05 September 2011
Now that public schools are pressed to come up with alternatives to taxpayer-supported education, we continue to see new and novel funding models. For example, in Elk Rapids Schools sports, “pay to play” is one factor. User fees for high school sports is quite common.
Will cash-strapped school districts and/or the states they are in now embrace “pay to view,” in which what used to be public high-school games are now packaged via licensing agreements and media rights, to raise revenue?
In today’s Record-Eagle Gene Policinski examines this would-be trend in “ruling may mean paying for games” (September 6, 2011, p6A)
… is it really a far stretch to see cash-strapped states creating their own “networks” to control and market accounts of state championships?
Note that there is no proposal coming from Elk Rapids Schools to license the viewing of local games. And I doubt that it comes up soon, and it’s only one of many ways that a school district could deal with revenue shortfalls. Policinski’s concern is the potential decline in the number of truly public events and it’s implicit threat to basic freedoms. Should always be a concern of ours, too.
Posted on 26 August 2011
Reprinted as an Opinion piece rather than a posting about Education per se.
Here’s an excerpt of an op-ed piece by Michael A. Rebell and Jessica R. Wolff in today’s New York Times:
It is disgraceful that essential components of our public education system now depend on the charitable impulses of wealthy citizens.
At least 23 states have made huge cuts to public education spending this year, and school districts are scrambling to find ways to cope. School foundations, parent-teacher organizations and local education funds supported by business groups and residents contribute at least $4 billion per year to help public schools throughout the country.
You might ask, “Why is this practice so distasteful?” To that point, another excerpt:
Public education was built on the philosophy articulated by Horace Mann, the Massachusetts reformer who pioneered the Common School: a system “one and the same for both rich and poor” with “all citizens on the same footing of equality before the law of land.” Today, that vision of equality is in jeopardy.
The critique by Mann was based on a reaction to education in Europe of his day, which was extremely skewed towards educating the sons and daughters of the wealthy. An American strength at the time was its focus on universal education, which has withstood the test of time. But now, for a variety of reasons, that system is under attack, and whether by design or accident, America risks tearing down its remarkable system of universal public education because of a generalized sense of rage over the willingness to pay any taxes at all.
Those who fear an overall decline in America is upon us need to examine their beliefs and actions with respect to education to see if they are actually causing the decline they fear.