Monthly Archive for June, 2008

Quote Of The Day

“the World’s Saint, Mr. Gore, who lectures on carbon emissions and green behavior, built an ecological monstrosity of a castle that gulps energy at gargantuan rates; while the world’s villain, George Bush, built an eco-friendly, far more modest house that uses a fourth less power than the average home. But then when one compares the Kerry homes, the Edwards playhouse, and all the other liberal mansions, it makes sense. Modern liberalism for our elites is really a psychological state, in which an individual crafts an all-encompassing world view in the abstract to offset a rather materialistic and self-centered desire in the concrete. Here in California Sens. Boxer and Feinstein, and Rep Pelosi live like the privileged they are, while decrying the plight of the less fortunate. Someone who forbids drilling in ANWR rarely decides to down-size her home. A Senator Dodd who rails at the mortgage lenders’ greed has no problem taking a cut-rate loan from them–if it is a question of buying appropriate homes for his sixty-something efforts at establishing a young family. Hypocrisy is a human, not a political sin per se, but something about the combination of neo-socialist politics and extremely elite personal tastes suggests that there is a direct rather than an accidental connection—in the mind at least the former making possible the latter.” — Victor Davis Hanson

The More The Better

George Will makes the case for immigration we can all agree on:

Two-thirds of doctoral candidates in science and engineering in U.S. universities are foreign-born. But only 140,000 employment-based green cards are available annually, and 1 million educated professionals are waiting — often five or more years — for cards. Congress could quickly add a zero to the number available, thereby boosting the U.S. economy and complicating matters for America’s competitors.

Suppose a foreign government had a policy of sending workers to America to be trained in a sophisticated and highly remunerative skill at American taxpayers’ expense, and then forced these workers to go home and compete against American companies. That is what we are doing because we are too generic in defining the immigrant pool.

Barack Obama and other Democrats are theatrically indignant about U.S. companies that locate operations outside the country. But one reason Microsoft opened a software development center in Vancouver is that Canadian immigration laws allow Microsoft to recruit skilled persons it could not retain under U.S. immigration restrictions. Mr. Change We Can Believe In is not advocating the simple change — that added zero — and neither is Mr. Straight Talk.

John McCain’s campaign Web site has a spare statement on “immigration reform” that says nothing about increasing America’s intake of highly qualified immigrants. Obama’s site says only: “Where we can bring in more foreign-born workers with the skills our economy needs, we should.” “Where we can”? We can now.

The full post can be found here.

Quote Of The Day

“A major theme of the Court’s opinion is that permitting the death penalty in child-rape cases is not in the best interests of the victims of these crimes and society at large. In this vein, the Court suggests that it is more painful for child-rape victims to testify when the prosecution is seeking the death penalty. Ante, at 32. The Court also argues that “a State that punishes child rape by death may remove a strong incentive for the rapist not to kill the victim,” ante, at 35, and may discourage the reporting of child rape, ante, at 34–35.
These policy arguments, whatever their merits, are simply not pertinent to the question whether the death penalty is “cruel and unusual” punishment. The Eighth Amendment protects the right of an accused. It does not authorize this Court to strike down federal or state criminal laws on the ground that they are not in the best interests of crime victims or the broader society. The Court’s policy arguments concern matters that legislators should—and presumably do—take into account in deciding whether to enact a capital child-rape statute, but these arguments are irrelevant to the question that is before us in this case. Our cases have cautioned against using “ ‘the aegis of the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause’ to cut off the normal democratic processes,” Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U. S. 304, 323 (2002) (Rehnquist, C. J., dissenting), in turn quoting Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U. S. 153, 176 (1976), (joint opinion of Stewart, Powell, and STEVENS, JJ.), but the Court forgets that warning here.” —Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, dissenting in the Supreme Courts decision to ban the death penalty in child rape cases

Congress Energy Solution

The Case For Drilling In ANWR

Made by Krauthammer:

We import two-thirds of our oil, sending hundreds of billions of dollars to the likes of Russia, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. And yet we voluntarily prohibit ourselves from even exploring huge domestic reserves of petroleum and natural gas.

At a time when U.S. crude oil production has fallen 40 percent in the last 25 years, 75 billion barrels of oil have been declared off-limits, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That would be enough to replace every barrel of non-North American imports (oil trade with Canada and Mexico is a net economic and national security plus) for 22 years.

That’s nearly a quarter-century of energy independence. The situation is absurd. To which John McCain is responding with a partial fix: Lift the federal ban on Outer Continental Shelf drilling, where a fifth of the off-limits stuff lies.

Technological conditions have changed as well. We now are able to drill with far more precision and environmental care than a quarter-century ago. We have thousands of rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, yet not even hurricanes Katrina and Rita resulted in spills of any significance.

….

The entire Arctic refuge is one-third the size of the United Kingdom (which includes Scotland and Wales). The drilling site would be one-seventh the size of Manhattan Island. The footprint is tiny. Moreover, forbidding drilling there does not prevent despoliation. It merely exports it. The crude oil we’re not getting from the Arctic we import instead from places like the Niger Delta, where millions live and where the resulting pollution and oil spillages poison the lives of many of the world’s most wretchedly poor.

The full article can be found here.

How To Lower Healthcare Costs

Free trade and immigration:

This is what the Great Society program did in the 1960s, with imports of doctors whose visas tied them, for specific periods, to serving remote, rural areas. U.S.-trained physicians practicing for a specified period in an “underserved” area were not required to return home.

It is time to expand such programs – for instance, by making physicians trained at accredited foreign institutions eligible for such entry into the U.S. But in order to do this, both Democratic candidates will first need to abandon their party’s antipathy to foreign trade.

Jagdish Bhagwati, professor of economics at Columbia University

Public Schools Without Teachers Union

How would it perform? Hurricane Katrina provided the experiment we needed:

The storm ravaged the city’s architecture and infrastructure, took hundreds of lives, exiled hundreds of thousands of residents. But it also destroyed, or enabled the destruction of, the city’s public-school system—an outcome many New Orleanians saw as deliverance….The floodwaters, so the talk went, had washed this befouled slate clean—had offered, in a state official’s words, a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reinvent public education.” In due course, that opportunity was taken:…Stripped of most of its domain and financing, the Orleans Parish School Board fired all 7,500 of its teachers and support staff, effectively breaking the teachers’ union. And the Bush administration stepped in with millions of dollars for the expansion of charter schools—publicly financed but independently run schools that answer to their own boards. The result was the fastest makeover of an urban school system in American history.

A year later now, and it appears to be working very well. Megan McArdle has more here.

Quote Of The Day

“Now, in fact, I agree that people overleveraged themselves in the last eight years, encouraged by ultra-low interest rates; that is now showing up in the DSR, which is now rising toward 15%. But I do not agree that this is the sort of financial holocaust that some argue. The housing bubble peaked in late 2005, meaning that we are now deep into the weeds of negative equity and teaser resets. This year should be the worst for mortgage performance, and yet the most recent figures show that the worst quality loans, subprime, have an overall foreclosure rate of 2% and a delinquency rate of 14%. These are not happy numbers–they represent hard times for a lot of families. And I expect that they will rise still further in the next report, due out in early June. But that’s not “demise of the middle class” level; subprime ARMS, the problem market, account for only 7% of outstanding loans.” —Megan McArdle, writing in the Atlantic, debunking the myth of the ‘shrinking middle class’

Quote Of The Day

If you stand on the steps of a state capitol building and throw a rock (with a really strong arm), the first building you can hit has a good chance of being the headquarters of the state teachers’ union. For interest groups, proximity to the capitol is a way of displaying power and influence. The teachers’ union strives to be the closest. It wants to remind everyone that it is the most powerful interest group of all.” —Jay P. Greene, the Endowed Professor of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas

Democrats Putting Children Last

The Wall Street Journal writes on how Democrats are putting children last:

“Democrats in Congress have finally found a federal program they want to eliminate. And wouldn’t you know, it’s one that actually works and helps thousands of poor children.

We’re speaking of the four-year-old Washington, D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program that provides vouchers to about 2,000 low-income children so they can attend religious or other private schools. The budget for the experimental program is $18 million, or about what the U.S. Department of Education spends every hour and a half.

Many of the parents we interviewed describe the vouchers as a “Godsend” or a “lifeline” for their sons and daughters. “Most of the politicians have choices on where to send their kids to school,” says William Rush, Jr., who has two boys in the program. “Why do they want to take our choices away?”

Good question. These are families in heavily Democratic neighborhoods. More than 80% of the recipients are black and most of the rest Hispanic. Their average income is about $23,000 a year. But the teachers unions have put out the word to Congress that they want all vouchers for private schools that compete with their monopoly system shut down.

This explains why that self-styled champion of children’s causes, Eleanor Holmes Norton, the Congressional delegate from the District of Columbia, is leading the charge to kill the program. Ms. Norton contends that vouchers undermine support and funding for public schools. But the $18 million allocated to the program does not come out of the District school budget; Congress appropriates extra money for the vouchers.

The $7,500 voucher is a bargain for taxpayers because it costs the public schools about 50% more, or $13,000 a year, to educate a child in the public schools. And we use the word “educate” advisedly because D.C. schools are among the worst in the nation. In 2007, D.C. public schools ranked last in math scores and second-to-last in reading scores for all urban public school systems on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Opponents claim there is no evidence that the D.C. scholarship program is raising academic achievement. The only study so far, funded by the federal Department of Education, found positive but “not statistically significant” improvements in reading and math scores after the first year. But education experts agree it takes a few years for results to start showing up. In other places that have vouchers, such as Milwaukee and Florida, test scores show notable improvement. A new study on charter schools in Los Angeles County finds big academic gains when families have expanded choices for educating their kids.

If the D.C. program continues for another few years, we will be able to learn more about the impact of vouchers on educational outcomes. The reason unions want to shut the program down immediately isn’t because they’re afraid it will fail. They’re afraid it will succeed, and show that there is a genuine alternative to the national scandal that are most inner-city public schools. That’s why former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams and current Mayor Adrian Fenty, both Democrats, support the program.

“Hopefully,” says Mr. Chavis, “Congress will focus on the kids, not the politics here.” Barack Obama might call that the audacity of hope, if he finally showed the nerve to break with the unions on at least one issue and support these poor D.C. students.

 

The full article can be found here. Mark Perry has more here.

Update: The WSJ has more.

The Minimum Wage In A Slowing Economy

In a growing economy the effects of the minimum wage will be harder to see, not so in a slowing economy.

Economics professor Perry writes, “Accoding to BLS data on unemployment rates by age, it looks like almost all of the .50% increase in May unemployment to 5.5% from 5% in April was due to increases in the jobless rates for young workers in the 16-24 year age group, especially the 16-19 year group (see chart above). For workers 25 years and over, the jobless rate has remained pretty stable at around 4%, compared to large increases from April for 16-19 year workers (+3.3% to 18.7%, the highest rate since 1993) and 20-24 year olds (+1.5%). “

Gas Prices Around The World

Quote Of The Day

“The largest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity is no longer socialism. It is, instead, the ambitious, arrogant, unscrupulous ideology of environmentalism.” —Czech President Vaclav Klaus