- Duncan Green, Is Growth with Equity Getting Old?: "Growth with Equity has been one of the development industry’s overarching economic narratives for over a decade (Oxfam published ‘Economic Growth with Equity: Lessons from East Asia’ in 1998). OK, it’s better than just ‘Growth’, and where it’s been achieved, it has an unrivalled impact on poverty, but thinking has moved on in a number of areas, and G+E is starting to look distinctly threadbare. I’ve been putting up posts on this blog on different aspects of this, but here’s a synthesis ... 3. The importance of volatility and unpredictability: economic issues are usually discussed in terms of stocks (eg of assets) and flows (e.g. average incomes). However, virtually all serious studies of poor people’s lives show that it is uncertainty and unpredictability that is often the defining, and most dreaded, feature of ‘ill-being’. This has led to increased interest in a range of mechanisms to reduce vulnerability to such sudden shifts, including social protection, enhanced social capital, disaster risk reduction, keeping health and education free at the point of use etc."
- Robert Frank, How to Run Up a Deficit, Without Fear: "... there are really only three basic truths that policy makers need to know about deficits: First, it’s actually good to run them during deep economic downturns. Second, whether deficits are bad in the long run depends on how borrowed money is spent. And third, eliminating deficits entirely would not require any painful sacrifices. ... To eliminate deficits, we need additional revenue. The encouraging news is that we could raise more than enough to balance government budgets by replacing our existing tax system with one that taxes activities that cause harm to others. Called Pigovian taxes by economists — after the English economist Arthur Cecil Pigou — such levies create a burden that is more than offset by the reductions they cause in costly side effects of everyday activities."
- Jon Marcus, A Mid Atlantic Miracle: How Maryland Held the Line on College Costs: "A handful of states have tried to fight the tide. Florida and Ohio put tuition caps on their state universities two years ago, but lifted them this summer in the face of economic woes. Missouri just imposed a two-year tuition freeze on its public universities, but only after having allowed big tuition increases over the last few years. For the most part, state-level elected officials and university administrators have been content to indulge in a tacit conspiracy, allowing school expenditures to rise unchecked while the costs of paying for them are shifted away from taxpayers and onto the backs of students and their families. It’s gotten to the point where some states are considering completely shutting off taxpayer support for their flagship universities—letting them become, in effect, like private institutions, able to hike tuition and cater to the upper middle class as much as they please. There’s one state that has fairly successfully bucked the higher-tuition trend, however: Maryland. The approximately 150,000 students who attend the eleven campuses that make up the University System of Maryland—from the ivy-covered flagship University of Maryland in College Park to historically black Bowie State University in Prince George’s County—are paying the same tuition this fall that they did the previous academic year, and the year before that, and the year before that.
- Ben Ehrenreich, California Scheming: "The neoliberal chickens, though, have been waddling home, and they began taking roost before the current financial crisis hit. In 2007, students hit the streets to protest educational "reforms"--cuts, fee hikes, increasing privatization--in Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, South Africa, Spain and the United Kingdom. Public funding of nearly all of most prestigious US state university systems has withered, resulting in student protests in Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin. "There's a national trend to the privatization of state universities," says the economist Nancy Folbre, author of the forthcoming Saving State U. "It's all part of the same picture."
- Catherine Hoxby, The Changing Selectivity of American Colleges: "This paper demonstrates that competition for space--the number of students who wish to attend college growing faster than the number of spaces available--does not explain changing selectivity. The explanation is, instead, that the elasticity of a student's preference for a college with respect to its proximity to his home has fallen substantially over time and there has been a corresponding increase in the elasticity of his preference for a college with respect to its resources and peers. In other words, students used to attend a local college regardless of their abilities and its characteristics. Now, their choices are driven far less by distance and far more by a college's resources and student body. It is the consequent re-sorting of students among colleges that has, at once, caused selectivity to rise in a small number of colleges while simultaneously causing it to fall in other colleges. I show that the integration of the market for college education has had profound implications on the peers whom college students experience, the resources invested in their education, the tuition they pay, and the subsidies they enjoy. An important finding is that, even though tuition has been rising rapidly at the most selective schools, the deal students get there has arguably improved greatly."
- Economic Opportunity Institute, A Tale of Two Recessions: "A new analysis of Washington [State]’s economy reveals that many hallmarks of middle-class life—owning a home, sending the kids to college, having health care, and building a retirement nest egg—have become
increasingly unattainable for local families. .... Even as costs have increased, today’s households and workers have less income than was the norm just a decade ago. Worse yet, most middle-income Washington families hadn’t even dug out of the economic hole created by the last recession before the “Great Recession” of 2008-09.
- Gordon Berlin, Workforce Investment Act Reauthorization: Will the Past be Prologue?: " ... this is an extraordinary moment for employment policy. The life course of nearly one of every five would-be workers (comprising the unemployed, the underemployed, the too discouraged to look, and involuntary part-time workers) will be determined in some measure by what we do here today and in the weeks and months that follow, up to and beyond the reauthorization of the WIA."
- Nicholas Wade, We May Be Born with an Urge to Help: "... biologists are beginning to form a generally sunnier view of humankind. Their conclusions are derived in part from testing very young children, and partly from comparing human children with those of chimpanzees, hoping that the differences will point to what is distinctively human. The somewhat surprising answer at which some biologists have arrived is that babies are innately sociable and helpful to others. Of course every animal must to some extent be selfish to survive. But the biologists also see in humans a natural willingness to help."
- Vivian Gornick, The Lost Radical: "Among the most influential of the turn-of-the-century modernists was an Englishman whose life embodies the cultural revolution that characterized his moment. Unlike the names of other modernists that have become iconic—from Sigmund Freud to Emma Goldman to Virginia Woolf—his has long languished in historical obscurity. Now, however, with the publication last year of Sheila Rowbotham’s impressive biography, Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and Love, we have a richly informative account of a man whose mind and spirit are, perhaps, even more resonant today than they were during the world-changing time in which he labored to achieve a value system that would place inner liberation firmly at its center. The story of Carpenter’s life is not only a striking tale of social courage, it is also a brilliant example of how modernism itself accumulated in one crucial sensibility."
- Matthew Yglesias, The High Price of Scholarship: "The rise of digital technology makes it possible to disseminate ideas for almost no money. That’s something that’s created big problems for a lot of commercial institutions, but it’s been a boon for most non-commercial ones—all kinds of DC think tanks and advocacy organizations, for example, have much broader reach thanks to our ability to cheaply distribute ideas around the world over the internet. But academic publishing seems oddly resistant to this trend. But almost every major university in the world seems to be expending funds on activities that have less social value than nearly-free distribution (public domain books on kindle seem to usually cost about $2) of the results of their scholarship would have. And on a selfish basis, I assume that the kind of people inclined to write books about the history of early modern philosophy are more interested in finding an audience for their work than in making a quick buck—that doesn’t seem like a profit-maximizing sort of field of endeavor."
- Tom Jacobs, The Invisible Woman of Color: "A just-published study suggests black women experience "a qualitatively different form of racism" that contributes to them not being "recognized or correctly credited for their contributions." On an unconscious level, African-American females are "treated as interchangeable and indistinguishable from one another," according to University of Kansas psychologists Amanda Sesko and Monica Biernat. ... In [a] second study, participants listened to a recorded conversation among eight college students, and were shown photos of the discussion participants as they spoke. Afterwards, they were asked to match specific statements with photos of the people who spoke them. "Black and white women were more likely to be confused with each other than black and white men," the researchers report. "Participants were more likely to incorrectly attribute statements made by black women to other targets than they were to misattribute white women's, black men's or white men's statements.""
- Jonathan Cohn, Health Reform will Make You Rich!: "Well, OK, maybe not rich. But it should mean higher wages, if it includes the tax on expensive health policies. That's according to Jonathan Gruber of MIT, who's been studying this and just released a new memo on the subject. As he did previously, he reverse-engineered numbers from the Joint Committee on Taxation to extrapolate wage growth. His findings? "Worker wages rise by $55 billion by 2019 This amounts to almost $700 per insured household in 2019. Worker wages rise by $234 billion in aggregate over this time period This is also a very progressive wage adjustment. In every year, the share of wage gains accruing to those with incomes below $100,000 is about two-thirds of the total, and the share of wage gains accruing to those with incomes below $200,000 is over 90% of the total.""
- Erik Eckholm, Trying to Explain a Drop in Infant Mortality: "Here in Dane County, Wis., which includes Madison, the implausible has happened: the rate of infant deaths among blacks plummeted between the 1990s and the current decade, from an average of 19 deaths per thousand births to, in recent years, fewer than 5. The steep decline, reaching parity with whites, is particularly intriguing, experts say, because obstetrical services for low-income women in the county have not changed that much. ... Without a simple medical explanation, health officials say, the decline appears to support the theory that links infant mortality to the well-being of mothers from the time they were in the womb themselves, including physical and mental health; personal behaviors; exposure to stresses, like racism; and their social ties."
- Ta-Nehisi Coates, Feed Me Hip-Hop and I Start Trembling: "In my memoir, I talk about a buddy who, whenever he was about to get jumped, use to recite the last half of Rakim's Microphone Fiend. It was like armor for his nerves. I think about that whenever I hear society mocking the mask which young black boys don in urban America. We manufacture the conditions, and then rail at kids for creating a code of survival in response. In my time, hip-hop was an art-form based on that code. If you were a kid living in a city, and thus acclimated to the rules of that city, if you spent time trying to understand which blocks were off-limits, if you ever assembled friends, in the manner of land-lords assembling vassals, if you never went to see your girlfriend solo, if, in other words, you lived with the threat of random violence, then hip-hop was the language of your life. "
- Paul Rosenberg, Shadow of Food Insecurity Looms: "... by every relevant measure, those states that voted for Obama did a better job of ensuring that families were food secure, that they lived without fear of going hungry. In braod terms, this is very good indication of what it means to vote Democratic at the presidential level. It is not that McCain voters are heartless. Nothing said about such large groups of people can reflect necessarily on any individual. But the group pattern is unmistakable. Now what is needed is national-level policies that reflect this underlying reality. Food insecurity is incompatible with the purpose proclaimed in the Preamble of the Constitution. It is, quite simply, un-American. It's time to call for its abolition--and more importantly, time to institute policies that will bring that about."
- A.O. Scott, 'Precious' and 'The Blind Side,' Two Routes From Poverty: "And this is a critique that might extend to “The Blind Side” as well. Both movies tell stories that suggest a way out of poverty, brutality and domestic calamity for certain lucky individuals while saying very little about how those conditions might be changed. For all their differences, they ultimately occupy a common ground that is both optimistic and, at the same time, curiously defeatist. Both locate the problems facing their main characters in the failure of families — of mothers in particular — and find solutions in better families, substitute mothers (Ms. Rain and Leigh Anne), whose selflessness and loyalty exorcise the biological monsters who have been left behind. The fact that “The Blind Side” is based on a true story lends credibility to this sentimental idea."
- Kate Christensen, Midday Malaise: "Free for All picks up the threads of the crucial question Michael Pollan posed in The Omnivore's Dilemma: What to do about the problem of food in America? Pollan came up with some brilliantly commonsensical answers, most famously the dictum "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." He attempted to address the nation's harsh class inequities by suggesting that ecologically conscious and enlightened nutritional habits—such as buying locally from small organic farms, forgoing processed foods entirely, and choosing a plant-heavy diet—if adopted by those who can afford them, would trickle down to the poor as sustainable agriculture became more prevalent and corporate control of supermarket shelves weakened. Still, I couldn't help feeling he didn't fully address the class issues surrounding food in this country. With refreshing objectivity and straightforwardness, Poppendieck dives into that whole teeming, gnarly mess: poverty, race, class, childhood "diabesity," hunger, bureaucratic roadblocks, and corporate greed. A professor of sociology at Hunter College, she has researched her topic with admirable thoroughness. There are interesting and often moving anecdotes throughout, but she is no zealot; her writing style has little of Pollan's catchy, headlong passion. Her call to action is quiet and restrained: "We need a new paradigm for school meals," she writes, "one that sees expenditures for school food as investments in the current and future health of our children. It is time to go 'back to the drawing board,' to take a whole new look at the way we feed our children at school." Because Poppendieck relies on the thoughtful synthesis of facts rather than rhetorical flash to make her points, Free for All can be a bit dry and academic, but it richly rewards a close and careful study and, in fact, should be required reading for everyone who eats food, buys food, has kids, or cares about nutrition."
- Scott McLemee, Mutual Aid Society: "In Why We Cooperate, just published by Boston Review Books, Tomasello gives a succinct account of his work with a research team conducting comparative studies of the behavior of human infants and our closest primate relations, especially chimpanzees. Their findings suggest that we are distinguished, as a species, by capacities for empathy, generosity, cooperation, and a sense of fair play. Some of these tendencies are found among the great apes, but not to anything like the degree to which they manifest themselves in children from very early in their development. These distinctive capacities form the bedrock of our capacity to accumulate, over time, not just wealth but complex behavior."
One of the themes that will hopefully emerge from this week's dramatic protests at UC Berkeley is that student know how commodified higher education has become, and they don't like it. Today about 40 or so students occupied a school building all day, before being escorted out this evening. The SF Chronicle reports that outside the building, protesters were chanting, "We're tired, we're cold, UC Berkeley won't be sold."
But higher education has already been sold. Since 1983, college and university expenses have risen at a rate that exceeds inflation by more than 25 percent. Professor salaries make up the largest share of expenses, and in constant dollars, they have grown tremendously at both private and public universities.
Faculty salaries at private schools have grown the most, but both public and private school faculty this year were earning the most they have ever been paid since 1967. In public schools, the average professor earned $99,640 in 1967, declining to a low of $81,418 in 1982, then rising to $115,509 in 2009. Private school salaries have gone up even faster, starting at $107,156 in 1967, bottoming out at $91,778 in 1982, and then hitting $151,403 by 2009. UC Berkeley, trying to compete with private schools, paid its faculty an average of $143,500 last year. (The data here comes from the Commonfund Institute's report on the higher education price index.)
Students here are already worried about the bleak job market we face when we leave school, probably heightening the tension over fees. But even before the recession, the wage premium associated with more schooling was declining. We're paying more for less.
UC President Mark Yudoff says that his biggest fear is "an exodus of faculty." In the modern market that has to be a concern, but it shouldn't be the biggest. How many more students are going to be driven by debt into the private sector instead of working for nonprofits or government? How many more students with technical skills and abilities will go into finance and consulting instead or engineering and computer sciences? Maybe the costs of student tuition are quantifiable, but the price society pays isn't. And the bottom line of public education isn't a star-studded faculty or flashy new buildings. It should be that the public benefits.
People like to protest at UC Berkeley, so it was a matter of time before I got involved in one. Today was my first, and in true Berkeley fashion its purpose was fighting the administration over a large fee increase that was, unfortunately, approved. For my program, a proposed $6,000 "professional development fee" also hangs in the balance.
The folks getting the blame for the rise in student fees include the administration, the governor, the people of California who approved Prop. 13 and its limits on tax increases, and probably somebody else I'm missing. All of them deserve some blame, but they didn't call out the professors, who're supposedly allied with the students against the fee hikes. But rising professor salaries are an important contributor to the runaway inflation in education. Berkeley's full professors got an average salary of $143,500 last school year, up from $108,700 for the 1999-2000 school year, according to the American Association of University Professors. The UCs are public universities, yet their pay scales compare favorably with private schools.
I wonder, is the cost dynamic in higher education all that different from health care? The basic trend there is that health care has gotten more expensive, doctors have become better compensated, and outcomes haven't gotten better at the same pace, especially when you look at regional spending and outcomes. And like health care, fundamentally, the protests at Berkeley and other UCs are about the failure to control costs, and the consequent decision to privatize how it gets paid for. The official response has not been to address the root of the problem but to shift the burden of paying for education to the students and their families, and the student response is generally that somebody else should pay for it. But as far as I can tell there is no coherent understanding of why education has gotten so expensive. That's what needs to be established first- then we should have a discussion about how to pay for it.
- Judith Schwatz, What Jane Jacobs Can Teach Us About the Economy: "Most know Jane Jacobs as the ultimate champion of cities, who stood up against neighborhood demolition and saw a vibrant ballet where others saw urban squalor. But three years since her death — and a year into a downturn marked by bailouts, foreclosures and sky-high unemployment — her economic vision has come into the spotlight. "People in economic policy and development are looking carefully at Jacobs' work," says David Boyle, an author and researcher at the New Economics Foundation, a London-based independent economic think tank. "She's been very influential, but subtly so. People aren't always aware of where the ideas come from. This is true from the right and left."
- Tom Barry, A Death in Texas: "These immigration prisons constitute the new face of imprisonment in America: the speculative public-private prison, publicly owned by local governments, privately operated by corporations, publicly financed by tax-exempt bonds, and located in depressed communities. Because they rely on project revenue instead of tax revenue, these prisons do not need voter approval. Instead they are marketed by prison consultants to municipal and county governments as economic-development tools promising job creation and new revenue without new taxes. The possibility of riots usually goes unmentioned."
- Evan R. Goldstein, Isaiah Berlin, Beyond the Wit: "The first book that Hardy edited, Russian Thinkers (Viking Press), appeared in 1978. It included essays on the literary critic Vissarion Belinsky, the socialist writer Alexander Herzen, and the novelist Ivan Turgenev. There was also an essay on Leo Tolstoy, titled "The Hedgehog and the Fox," which put some analytical flesh on the bones of the Greek poet Archilochus's maxim that "the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." Russian Thinkers rekindled interest in Berlin's once-famous division of thinkers into hedgehogs and foxes. It remains one of the philosopher's most-referenced insights. (Russian Thinkers itself enjoyed a revival in 2007 when the playwright Tom Stoppard cited it as a major influence on his three-part epic The Coast of Utopia.)"
- Peniel E. Joseph, Back in Black: "Gilroy's last and most potent essay includes a cogent riff on Du Bois's central notion of double consciousness: the idea that black Americans possessed a dual vision of American democracy that allowed them to see the world's brutality and hopefulness at once. Du Bois's words proved crucial, Gilroy writes, to the way in which African Americans helped to alter "the world's moral architecture." Gilroy trenchantly lays out the universalist promise of the double-consciousness critique at the same time as he bemoans the failures of the latter-day African-American community to follow through on the more hopeful tenor of Du Bois's insights, offering precious little resistance, in Gilroy's view, to American culture's drift into the crasser reaches of consumer capitalism. For Gilroy, reclaiming Du Bois for today's black activists and intellectuals requires that they update the notion of double consciousness for a more contingent, multicultural age. The challenge ahead for black activists, Gilroy writes, is to "rehabilitate the idea of multiple identities" and simultaneously to assert their own selfhood—a political statement that retains "a capacity to shock" in a white-dominated social order."
- Mori Dinauer, Lighting Round: "Liberals are often accused of having a bias against business or being insufficiently pro-free market. I think it would be fair to say that liberals are skeptical about the business community's commitment to anything beyond the bottom line, and to that end have tended to side with labor over business elites. A good example of why this is is captured in this Think Progress which quotes the Inside U.S. Trade business newsletter: 'Business groups are worried by the potential effects of provisions banning the import of all goods made with convict labor, forced labor, or forced or indentured child labor that were included in a customs bill sponsored by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-IA).'"
- Kaiser Health News, Lawmakers Call for Emergency Sick-Leave Requirement: "Lawmakers are calling for new legislation that would require businesses to provide paid emergency sick-leave because of the swine flu pandemic. The Los Angeles Times reports: "Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), chairing a health subcommittee hearing Tuesday, said that requiring businesses with 15 or more employees to offer seven paid days off a year would end a dangerous choice 'between staying healthy and making ends meet.'" Some conservative lawmakers argue, though, "that Democrats are using a public health crisis as momentum for faulty legislation that would harm businesses by inviting abuse by workers. ... There currently is no requirement for businesses of any size to provide paid sick leave""
- David Weigel, Anti-Tax Movement Ponders Two Big Defeats: "Election night was bittersweet for Andrew Moylan. The young government affairs manager of the conservative National Taxpayers Union was watching returns in Asheville, N.C., with fellow attendees of the conservative State Policy Network’s annual meeting. Early in the night, the gubernatorial races in Virginia and then New Jersey went to the Republicans. Moylan, however, was watching the returns on two anti-tax, anti-spending ballot measures in Maine and Washington. Those weren’t turning out so well. ... The numbers broke hard against conservatives and libertarians. The Maine Tax Relief Initiative–Question 4–would have placed new limits on state and local government spending and required voter approval to go over those limits. It failed by 21 points and a margin of more than 100,000 votes. Washington Initiative 1033 would have placed limits on local spending and directed surplus tax revenue back to Washingtonians, as property tax rebates. It failed by 11 points and a similar margin of around 100,000 votes."