Saturday, November 12, 2011

Support Wikipedia

Wikipedia is in need of financial support, and if you use it, even sporadically, I urge you to donate a little cash to this invaluable online information source. This morning I made a small donation because I understand that nothing is for free. The source is free of advertising, and that is a significant condition for a site devoted to the free exchange of information.

Check out this message from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. You can also make the donation from the page.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Politicians Fail Econ 101

While people are quick to criticize college professors as living in the Ivory Tower, it's hard to dispute the criticisms they make of our current presidential aspirants. In a recent piece for CNN Money Magazine, Charles Riley reports from the college campuses where many economics professors argue the presidential candidates - including President Obama - would flunk a basic course in economics.

For example, America's Econ 101 professors say yes. In their view, the candidates continue to offer ideas and policies that wouldn't pass muster in their classes -- populated by 18 year-old college students. "There are so many economic 'misstatements' being made," said Jonathan Lanning, a professor at Bryn Mawr who is teaching two introductory economics classes this semester. "And it isn't confined to any one candidate." Michele Bachmann promised to bring back $2 gas. Tim Pawlenty suggested sustained 5% GDP growth was a realistic target. Rick Perry would balance the budget with lower tax revenues.

Another professor who teaches at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Michael Salemi, was able to identify statements from six candidates that "would earn failing grades in my Econ 101 class." Salemi called Ron Paul's rationale for returning to the gold standard "one of the most dangerous ideas put forward by a politician in recent years." And the idea of waging a trade war with China that was bandied about by Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney at a recent debate? "If we learned anything from the Great Depression it was that starting a trade war by passing new tariffs leads to reprisals," Salemi said. "In the end there are no winners, only losers."

And it's not just Republicans -- the Democratic candidate is slipping too. Neither "side" has a "truly comprehensive understanding of even basic economics," Lanning said. Nelson pointed to President Obama's green jobs initiative, which he said is an attempt to wed job creation and energy production in a way that is unlikely to produce real results. "They should either concentrate on a policy that aids job creation or a policy that creates more green energy; attempts to do both with one policy means they do well on neither goal," Nelson said.

Certainly, we see politics through an ideological bias. But numbers don't lie. And the criticism from econ professors of many political soundbites is accurate.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Jooble for Jobs

Jobs, jobs, jobs.

That's the focus these days, and everybody has an opinion. How we create jobs and connect people with available jobs is at the foundation. And the internet is a key to job creation and networking that the country so desperately needs. In the past, it was all about job fairs and classified ads. Now, we have a myriad of websites from Monster to CraigsList. In fact, I've looked for freelance writing and education jobs on Craigslist before.

Another website that may be of interest to job seekers is called - jooble. I recently learned of the jooble website, and I took a few minutes browse around. The site is pretty straightforward and accessible, though I admit I haven't used it to actually connect with employers.

At this point, our economy is moving in new direction with employment, and who knows what it will look like in the future. But it will most certainly include more freelancing and sites like jooble are certainly a part of that.

Worth taking a look if you're looking for work.

Conservative Appeals Court Upholds ACA

Consider this from the Court of Appeals:

"That a direct requirement for most Americans to purchase any product or service seems an intrusive exercise of legislative power surely explains why Congress has not used this authority before – but that seems to us a political judgment rather than a recognition of constitutional limitations," Judge Laurence Silberman, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan wrote in the court's opinion. Silberman was joined by Judge Harry Edwards, a Carter appointee. But, they added, "The right to be free from federal regulation is not absolute and yields to the imperative that Congress be free to forge national solutions to national problems."

Monday, November 7, 2011

Samuelson Busts Budget Myths

While I don't feel good about any options for repairing the budget - and I'm still torn between which party I think is more screwed up - I do know what I think about the current budget mess and the shameless campaigning that is going on regarding it. Robert Samuelson of the Washington Post voices my sentiments exactly on this catastrophe today in the Washington Post

Among Samuelson's many - and obvious - insights:

... Many government programs deserve the ax. I’ve railed against some for years: farm subsidies (food would be produced without them); Amtrak (it is non-essential transportation); public broadcasting and culture subsidies (these are unaffordable frills); community development block grants (they generally don’t enrich poor communities).

Entitlements — mainly Social Security and Medicare — should be trimmed. I’ve also made that a crusade. We need higher eligibility ages to reflect longer life expectancies. Wealthier retirees should receive less Social Security and pay more for Medicare.

But plausible savings don’t match conservative rhetoric. All the suspect “discretionary” programs come to tens of billions, not hundreds of billions. Culture subsidies total about $1 billion annually; community block grants in 2010 were $4 billion. Meanwhile, total federal spending was $3.5 trillion. Do conservatives really want to eliminate the national parks? The FBI? Highways? Food inspections?

And, of course, this:

Contrary to liberal dogma, the rich already pay plenty of taxes. Indeed, they pay for government. In 2007, the richest 1 percent of Americans paid 28 percent of all federal taxes; the richest 10 percent (including the 1 percent) paid 55 percent.

For most millionaires, federal tax rates — the share of income taxed — exceed 30 percent. Some rich have lower rates. Raising these rates is justified but wouldn’t balance the budget. The plan by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for a 5.6 percentage point surtax on incomes exceeding $1 million would raise an estimated $453 billion over 10 years. Deficits over the decade are realistically projected at $8.5 trillion.

As for the Pentagon, the military was cut sharply after the Cold War. Combat forces are half to two-thirds of 1990 levels. Defense spending as a share of national income is headed toward its lowest level since 1940.

What liberals don’t say is this: Unless Social Security and Medicare benefits — the bulk of the budget — are reduced, we face three dismal choices. Huge, unsustainable deficits. Massive tax increases on the middle class, as high as 50 percent over 10 to 15 years. Or draconian cuts in the discretionary programs that liberals accuse conservatives of wanting to gut.

And, so, we are left with a super-committee that will, by most accounts, accomplish nothing. Where have you gone Tip O'Neill/Ronald Reagan?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Better World

Recently, I gave an argumentative writing prompt to my senior Intro to College Comp class, asking them if the "world is getting better." The subsequent discussion - as they debated their positions in class - confirmed most of what I believe about young people. Roughly two-thirds of the class saw the world as improving, while the rest were more pessimistic. Both side made valid assertions, and the discussion reinforced my opinion. Despite all the naysayers of gloom and doom on issues from education to the economy to health care to the environment to our "culture," I'm upbeat and hopeful about the time in which I live - and I can't imagine wishing to live in any other era.

Certainly, reasons for pessimism abound, and the economy/fiscal/jobs crisis leads the charge. Disparity in wealth at current levels is never good for a society, and the lack of solutions about how to reverse the credit/cash crunch are slim. Rising health care costs always make me anxious, and I see no end for the conflict about how to cut spending and raise revenue for society to meet its basic expectations. Education costs are certainly getting out of hand, and the results for sixty percent of our population are disheartening. Additionally, I worry about popular culture and its licentiousness as my children head toward adolescence.

Nevertheless, the world is a wonderfully opportunistic place these days, and the future knows no limits. My students talked about the increases in technology that improve health care and daily life. They reminded me how many students are taking advanced calculus and sciences in high school - the types of classes reserved for college in the past. They are an incredibly tolerant generation who will probably see less violent crime and prejudice in their world. While the war against islamic terrorism is certainly troublesome, the world sees far fewer wars and deaths from violence than at almost any time in history. Additionally, we have a lot of altruistic people out there who are doing the heavy lifting - and financing - with the hope of clean water and development for impoverished peoples. Changes are happening - albeit slowly - in education, and access is increasing worldwide.

Ultimately, the world is what we make it. And, thus, if our image is positive, our world most certainly will move in that direction. Thus, I asked my students at the end of class, not if the world was getting better, but if they were.

So, how about you.