Monday, March 31, 2008

New Op-ed up at Fox News: The 'Recession' Is a Media Myth

My new op-ed can be found here:

During the 2000 election, with Bill Clinton as president, the economy was viewed through rose-colored glasses. According to polls, voters didn’t realize that the country was in a recession. Although the economy started shrinking in July 2000, most Americans through the entire year thought that the economy was fine.

But over the last half-year, the media and politicians have said we were in a recession even while the economy was still growing.

Gas prices are going up. The economy is slowing. Talk of recession is seemingly everywhere. While the majority of people rate their personal finances positively, consumer confidence in the economy has plunged to a 16-year low, well below what it was during the last year of the Clinton administration when we were in a recession.

A Google search on news stories during the three-month period from July 2000 through September 2000 using the keywords “economy recession US” produces 1,610. By contrast, the same search over just the last month finds 50,763. Or, even more telling, take the three months from July through September last year, when the GDP was growing at a phenomenal 4.9 percent. The same type of Google search shows 7,310 news stories. . . .


Monday, March 17, 2008

New Op-ed up at Fox News: "Financial Markets Are in a Mess"

This is a pretty detailed piece:

Politicians always seem to know better. Not satisfied with telling people what types of light bulbs to use and the size of cars they can drive, politicians in Washington have decided to replace financial markets and try legislating away the laws of supply and demand.

Last week congressional democrats introduced regulations to stop what they complained were "wild interest rate hikes" on credit cards. Before that Hillary Clinton advocated a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures and a five-year freeze on interest rates for sub-prime mortgages.

Yet, price controls don’t solve the problems with high interest rates. If people want to borrow more money than is available, interest rates rise, both to attract more to lend and insure that those who need what scarce money there is, are the ones who get to borrow it. If regulations prevent interest rates from going up, you get shortages and credit rationing. . . .

The main point of the op-ed is how government regulation created the current mess.


Friday, March 7, 2008

So where do you think that the best teachers are going to go?

To the New York Times, this is an open question. The title on their article asks: "Would six-figure salaries attract better teachers?" Obviously, higher salaries mean that more teachers will apply for the jobs. The schools might not select the best teachers (public schools might hire people based upon tenure or political views or whatever. Charter schools have more of an incentive to pick the best teachers, though not as much as a private for profit operation would. From the Times:

The school, which will run from fifth to eighth grades, is promising to pay teachers $125,000, plus a potential bonus based on schoolwide performance. That is nearly twice as much as the average New York City public school teacher earns, roughly two and a half times the national average teacher salary and higher than the base salary of all but the most senior teachers in the most generous districts nationwide.

The school’s creator and first principal, Zeke M. Vanderhoek, contends that high salaries will lure the best teachers. He says he wants to put into practice the conclusion reached by a growing body of research: that teacher quality — not star principals, laptop computers or abundant electives — is the crucial ingredient for success.

“I would much rather put a phenomenal, great teacher in a field with 30 kids and nothing else than take the mediocre teacher and give them half the number of students and give them all the technology in the world,” said Mr. Vanderhoek, 31, a Yale graduate and former middle school teacher who built a test preparation company that pays its tutors far more than the competition. . . .

Some express doubt:

Yet the model is raising questions. Will two social workers be enough? Will even the most skillful teachers be able to handle classes of 30, several students more than the city average? . . .

As someone who has taught for many years, I think that a good teacher can accomplish a lot with a bunch of bureaucrats being around. If the teacher doesn't work, the key is being willing to replace them with someone else.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

New Op-ed in the Wall Street Journal: Campaign-Finance Breakdown

Bradley Smith and I have a piece on public financing of presidential campaigns:

Is 2008 the last hurrah for public-that is, taxpayer-financing of presidential campaigns? Since 1976, taxpayers have shelled out about $3 billion in current dollars to pay for presidential campaigns, including campaigns by John Hagelin, Lyndon LaRouche, Lenora Fulani, Ralph Nader, Sen. Alan Cranston, Milton Schaap, Ruben Askew, and other also rans. Funds have also paid for balloon drops at the party's conventions, negative TV ads, robocalls and more.

But this year, most leading presidential contenders refused to take the public subsidy-and accompanying spending limits-during the primaries. One exception has been Sen. John McCain. But faced with certain campaign realities, he too is now looking for a way out and is arguing that he has a constitutional right to withdraw from the public funding system for the primaries and, instead, rely on private money. Sen. Barack Obama said last year that he would accept taxpayer financing in the general election if the Republican nominee did too, but he has backed away from that promise.

All this is happening despite the fact that Republicans are nominating their champion of campaign finance reform, Mr. McCain, and a year ago Mr. Obama was lauded in the headlines and media coverage for his dedication to saving public financing of presidential campaigns. . . .