Priorities

Reihan Salam is known as a “reformicon” who has prominently argued that the Republican Party needs to do more to help out working class voters.  But after reading his latest column on health care in Slate, he strikes me more as a naive-icon.  This conclusion is true, but seems like it could only be written by somebody with no familiarity with today’s Republican Party:

This is the right way for Republicans to talk about the cost of the safety net: If there’s a conflict between rich people’s money and the lives of ordinary Americans, we’re going to choose the latter every time…

How can Paul Ryan and his allies send a more coherent message around the American Health Care Act? A good starting point would be to forget about cutting Obamacare’s taxes on households earning more than $200,000. It’s not that Republicans are opposed to cutting those taxes. It’s just that their priorities should lie elsewhere, namely in ensuring that vulnerable people don’t get screwed. If Ryan can’t get behind that message, his health care bill deserves to fail.

Right.  There is literally nothing in Paul Ryan’s history that suggests he is more interested in ensuring vulnerable people getting screwed than in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.  Ryan is far more concerned about the problem of poor people getting the “hammock” of affordable, decent health care.  In this conflict, Paul Ryan chooses rich people’s money every single time.

I suppose I’m glad that people like Salam are Republicans to keep fighting the good fight from within the party.  But, damn, is he just hopelessly naive if he actually thinks Paul Ryan and friends truly care about America’s vulnerable.  That said, the whole column is still worth reading in diagnosing ideological conflict within the GOP.

Cool maps; simple story

This NYT feature of a series of maps of who would benefit and who would suffer under the Republicans health care plan is pretty cool.  That said, it can be pretty easily summarized: middle and higher income people– especially older wealthier people do better.  Poor people, especially poor old people, do a lot worse.

 

 

 

Teacher merit pay

Let’s take a brief respite from health care and Trump.  I was recently updating my education policy lecture and taking a look at merit pay.  Good post from Daniel Pink from a few years ago that nicely captures why merit pay does not work nearly so well as all it’s proponents are sure it must:

1. Some rewards backfire. Fifty years of social science tells us that “if-then” rewards – that is, “If you do this, then you get that” – are great for simple, routine tasks and not so great for complicated, creative tasks. Since teaching is creative and complex rather than simple and algorithmic, tying teacher pay to student performance (especially on standardized tests) flies in the face of the broad evidence.

2. Contingent pay for teachers just isn’t effective. What’s more, the specific evidence – a cluster of recent studies that have examined “if-then” pay schemes in schools – has shown them to be failures. See, for instance, this piece of research by Vanderbilt University or this one by Harvard’s Roland Fryer or this study by Rand that prompted the New York City public schools to abandon its pay-for-performance plan.

3. Money is still important. The fact that “if-then” motivators often go awry doesn’t mean that rewards in general or money in particular are bad. Not at all. The research shows that money matters. It just matters in a slightly different way than we suspect. Paying people unfairly — say, when Jane makes less than June for the same work — is extremely demotivating. And, of course, low salaries can deter some people from pursuing certain professions. Therefore, the best use of money as a motivator, at least for complex work, is to compensate people fairly and to try to take the issue of money off the table.  That means paying healthy base salaries… [emphasis mine]

5. We’ve got the wrong diagnosis. The notion that the central problem in American education is lack of teacher motivation is ludicrous. The vast majority of teachers in this country are some of the most hard-working, dedicated people you’ll ever meet – folks who work their butts off in difficult conditions for little recognition. Pay for performance is a weak prescription in part because it’s based on a faulty diagnosis…

7. Teaching isn’t investment banking. I find it peculiar that we single out teachers for “if-then” pay when we wouldn’t consider it for other public servants. Should we pay police officers based on how many tickets they write or whether the crime rate in their district drops? How about compensating soldiers based on whether our borders have been attacked or how many of their colleagues have been injured or killed? Would legislators, who are behind much of the bonuses-for-test-scores push, ever agree to hinge their own pay on whether budget deficits rose or fell?

Yes!  Number one, just pay all teachers more.  A lot more.  There can certainly be some financial rewards for especially meritorious teachers, but there is just evidence that such systems will do anything to increase teacher quality.

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