The failed promise of college and mobility

I’ve been meaning to do a post on this for a long time, but recent events have, obviously, inspired me to finally get around to it.

Anyway, we might think colleges are there to help people move up the socio-economic ladder, but so much of what they do is serve the progeny of the most-advantaged Americans.  As the Upshot headline puts it, “Some Colleges Have More Students From the Top 1 Percent.  Than the Bottom 60. Find Yours.”

Students at elite colleges are even richer than experts realized, according to a new study based on millions of anonymous tax filings and tuition records.

At 38 colleges in America, including five in the Ivy League – DartmouthPrincetonYalePenn and Brown – more students came from the top 1 percent of the income scale than from the entire bottom 60 percent…

Roughly one in four of the richest students attend an elite college – universities that typically cluster toward the top of annual rankings (you can find more on our definition of “elite” at the bottom).

In contrast, less than one-half of 1 percent of children from the bottom fifth of American families attend an elite college; less than half attend any college at all…

Colleges often promote their role in helping poorer students rise in life, and their commitments to affordability. But some elite colleges have focused more on being affordable to low-income families than on expanding access. “Free tuition only helps if you can get in,” said Danny Yagan, an assistant professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the authors of the study…

These patterns are important because previous research has found that there are many highly qualified lower-income students who do not attend selective colleges – and because the low- and middle-income students who do attend top colleges fare almost as well as rich students.

Even though they face challenges that other students do not, lower-income students end up earning almost as much on average as affluent students who attend the same college.

And here’s the cool Upshot tool to find your college.  Obviously, I took a look at NC State and Duke:

Easily the most striking statistic to me in all of this is that the median family income of NC State students is $112,000.  And NC State in no way has a reputation as a place for the socio-economic elite (that’s definitely UNC’s in-state reputation).  I’ve been using this statistics to shock my students (most guess way lower) ever since I learned of it.

And, as for my alma mater.  Not exactly surprised, but, my goodness what a bastion of elitism.  I wonder how much this has changed (probably not all that much) from my time in the early 1990s.

And, while we’re at it, Fred Hiatt writes, “We’re still paying for rich people to go to college. Why?”

Republicans these days are full of tender concern that government welfare programs may weaken the moral fiber of their recipients. That is why they insist that benefits go only to those who prove their fitness of character through employment or job training.

Unless the benefits are going to the rich and middle class, that is, in which case all concern evaporates. When it comes to in-state tuition rates, for example, which constitute one of government’s most generous handouts, no one seems to worry about a breakdown of family values or the debilitating loss of pride in self-sufficiency.

Maybe you haven’t thought of in-state tuition as a welfare program. But an upper-class family can send a child to a flagship school like, say, the University of Maryland for about $10,000 a year. That student is receiving an education that the College Park campus has determined is worth more than $32,000 a year — and plenty of out-of-state students are willing to pay as much. So by the time the student graduates, the family will have gotten a government handout to the tune of $88,000 — and no one will have asked the parents for proof that they’re employed… [emphases mine]

After I made this argument once before, four years ago, a paper published by the Brookings Institution took issue with me. The authors of the 2016 paper, Jason Delisle and Kim Dancy, calculated that the benefits of in-state tuition don’t flow disproportionately to the wealthy, and therefore there is no problem.

“Low-income students account for 37.4 percent of students enrolled in public universities and receive 38.8 percent of all indirect subsidies,” they wrote. “High-income students, who the conventional wisdom says receive a larger share of the subsidies, actually receive a slightly smaller share (19.5 percent) than their enrollment (21.1 percent).”

Well, one answer would be: In the 21st century, college is as essential as high school was in the 20th, and so public college today should be as free as public high school became then. This argument makes a lot of sense. But its proponents generally don’t explain where they will find the money to make it happen, so wouldn’t it be logical to begin by helping the youths who most need the help?

A second answer is that state taxpayers are willing to support state university systems on the understanding that their children, if qualified, will be given affordable access. Break the bargain, and you will lose any sense of community buy-in.

I don’t know what to make of all of this except one clear thing– we need to do better.

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Quick hits (part II)

1) I’ve been guilty of blaming robots/automation for a lot of our problems (like lots of other liberals).  Krugman with a strong corrective:

The other day I found myself, as I often do, at a conference discussing lagging wages and soaring inequality. There was a lot of interesting discussion. But one thing that struck me was how many of the participants just assumed that robots are a big part of the problem — that machines are taking away the good jobs, or even jobs in general. For the most part this wasn’t even presented as a hypothesis, just as part of what everyone knows.

And this assumption has real implications for policy discussion. For example, a lot of the agitation for a universal basic income comes from the belief that jobs will become ever scarcer as the robot apocalypse overtakes the economy.

So it seems like a good idea to point out that in this case what everyone knows isn’t true. Predictions are hard, especially about the future, and maybe the robots really will come for all our jobs one of these days. But automation just isn’t a big part of the story of what happened to American workers over the past 40 years.

We do have a big problem — but it has very little to do with technology, and a lot to do with politics and power…

Technological disruption, then, isn’t a new phenomenon. Still, is it accelerating? Not according to the data. If robots really were replacing workers en masse, we’d expect to see the amount of stuff produced by each remaining worker — labor productivity — soaring. In fact, productivity grew a lot faster from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s than it has since.

So technological change is an old story. What’s new is the failure of workers to share in the fruits of that technological change.

I’m not saying that coping with change was ever easy. The decline of coal employment had devastating effects on many families, and much of what used to be coal country has never recovered. The loss of manual jobs in port cities surely contributed to the urban social crisisof the ’70s and ’80s.

But while there have always been some victims of technological progress, until the 1970s rising productivity translated into rising wages for a great majority of workers. Then the connection was broken. And it wasn’t the robots that did it.

What did? There is a growing though incomplete consensus among economists that a key factor in wage stagnation has been workers’ declining bargaining power — a decline whose roots are ultimately political.

2) Oh my is the “gun sanctuary” movement just insanely stupid.  Only in America.  These people should just be flat-out embarrassed.  I love that these people are so frighteningly isolated that they are somehow unaware that most modern nations all over the world have pretty strict gun control and are not exactly tyrannies.

3) John Cassidy, “No, The Republican Party is not Turning on Donald Trump.”

Pause, for a moment, over the pitiful spectacle presented by Thom Tillis and Cory Gardner. In the past few weeks, Tillis, the first-term North Carolina senator, has emerged as a vocal critic of the national-emergency order, and until Thursday afternoon he was indicating that he would support the Democratic resolution. Then, faced with threats of a possible primary challenge, he did a U-turn and voted against the bill. Colorado’s Gardner, another critic of the executive order, also voted against the resolution—prompting the Denver Postto print an editorial saying its endorsement of him in 2014 was a mistake.

Of the twelve Republican senators who defied Trump, just one—Susan Collins, of Maine—is up for reëlection next year. Alexander is retiring. The other ten—Roy Blunt, Mike Lee, Jerry Moran, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, Pat Toomey, Rand Paul, and Roger Wicker—aren’t up until 2022 or 2024. By then, Trump might well be out of office. Even if he isn’t, the dissidents will have had plenty of time to grovel their way back into his good graces.

4) MDG knew I would love these art deco style space tourism posters.  E.g.,

Europa - JPL Travel Poster

5) This LA Times article on the 737 Max is easily the best I’ve read on the matter.

6) Someone might want to tell NC Republicans that harsher opioid sentences is not going to get us out of this problem.

7) I’ve had to use an asthma inhaler at one point or another with all three of my boys.  And I always had them follow the instructions here.  Apparently, a lot of people don’t.

8) Legacy admissions have absolutely got to go.  I was one (based on other classmates at Duke from my high school, pretty sure I would’ve made it anyway), but all they do is perpetuate privilege.  If any of my kids can get into Duke on their own, more power to them (not that I’m paying for it), but I sure wouldn’t want them getting in just because their parents went there.

9) Only in America.  Olga Khazan, “Americans Are Going Bankrupt From Getting Sick: Doctors’ bills play a role in 60 percent of personal-bankruptcy filings.”

10) How eating crickets can save the lemurs.  Though I’m really picky, I’m all for getting more insect protein into people’s diets as it is such an efficient way to get animal protein.  Turn it into a powder mixed in with other stuff and I’m fine with it.

11) This article on climate change and the Moose Tick in New England is a truly fascinating look at the complex interplay of climate, ecosystems, and species health.  Read the article to find out how, incredibly, shooting more moose may be a key part of the solution.

12) The Little Ice Age is really interesting.  Here’s a new book on it.

13) This is fun, “Oops! Famously Scathing Reviews of Classic Books From The Times’s Archive.”

14) Love, this, “I embraced screen time with my daughter– and I love it.”  Like most anything else, screen time can be great or harmful, it’s all in how you use it.

15) Jennifer Rubin brings the love to Pete Buttigieg.  He really is impressive.

16) Perry Bacon Jr with the six wings of the Democratic Party.  I think I’d but myself with the Progressive New Guard.

17) Okay, looks like now we have “snowplow parents,” too.

Helicopter parenting, the practice of hovering anxiously near one’s children, monitoring their every activity, is so 20th century. Some affluent mothers and fathers now are more like snowplows: machines chugging ahead, clearing any obstacles in their child’s path to success, so they don’t have to encounter failure, frustration or lost opportunities.

Taken to its criminal extreme, that means bribing SAT proctors and paying off college coaches to get children in to elite colleges — and then going to great lengths to make sure they never face the humiliation of knowing how they got there…

The bribery scandal has “just highlighted an incredibly dark side of what has become normative, which is making sure that your kid has the best, is exposed to the best, has every advantage — without understanding how disabling that can be,” said Madeline Levine, a psychologist and the author of “Teach Your Children Well: Why Values and Coping Skills Matter More Than Grades, Trophies or ‘Fat Envelopes.’”

“They’ve cleared everything out of their kids’ way,” she said.

In her practice, Dr. Levine said, she regularly sees college freshmen who “have had to come home from Emory or Brown because they don’t have the minimal kinds of adult skills that one needs to be in college.”

One came home because there was a rat in the dorm room. Some didn’t like their roommates. Others said it was too much work, and they had never learned independent study skills. One didn’t like to eat food with sauce. Her whole life, her parents had helped her avoid sauce, calling friends before going to their houses for dinner. At college, she didn’t know how to cope with the cafeteria options — covered in sauce.

“Here are parents who have spent 18 years grooming their kids with what they perceive as advantages, but they’re not,” Dr. Levine said.

Yes, it’s a parent’s job to support the children, and to use their adult wisdom to prepare for the future when their children aren’t mature enough to do so. That’s why parents hide certain toys from toddlers to avoid temper tantrums or take away a teenager’s car keys until he finishes his college applications.

If children have never faced an obstacle, what happens when they get into the real world?

18) Love this story of a really successful college basketball player who owes it all, not to dad, but to mom.

19) Really enjoyed this on why this winter’s polar vortex canceled so many flights– the humans:

“When you get below 35 degrees Fahrenheit, everything starts slowing down,” Kohlman says. You may need to start deicing planes, for one thing, which starts to create delays. And while baggage handlers may be able to do their jobs wearing thick gloves, maintenance workers changing out lightbulbs and getting wrenches onto bolts must choose between warmth and dexterity. If temperatures drop to the point where it’s dangerous for workers to stay outside for very long, operations slow down even further. (Airlines have set up temporary heated shelters and doled out hot chocolate and hand warmers at O’Hare, according to theChicago Sun Times.)

Eventually, those delays pile up into cancellations. Remember that the airline system is tightly connected, so problems at one node quickly spread. Passengers start missing their connecting flights in large numbers. Combine them with the folks in the coldest places who may stay home instead of braving the elements, and you can end up flying a half-empty plane. “It might not be the best business decision to do that,” Kohlman says. And airlines only get to make that decision if the crew makes it to the airport.

So, planes—like polar bears and robots—may not mind the cold. But airport workers—like zookeepers and roboticists—do. And they’re the folks who make them fly.

20) Rachel Riederer on the other kind of climate denialism is really good:

In 2008 and 2009, the American Psychological Association put together a task force to examine the relationship between psychology and climate change. It found that, although people said that climate change was important, they did not “feel a sense of urgency.” The task force identified several mental barriers that contributed to this blasé stance. People were uncertain about climate change, mistrustful of the science, or denied that it was related to human activity. They tended to minimize the risks and believe that there was plenty of time to make changes before the real impacts were felt. Just ten years later, these attitudes about climate feel like ancient relics. But two key factors, which the task force identified as keeping people from taking action, have stood the test of time: one was habit, and the other was lack of control. “Ingrained behaviors are extremely resistant to permanent change,” the group stated. “People believe their actions would be too small to make a difference and choose to do nothing.”

Wallace-Wells hits this note in his book, too, writing, “We seem most comfortable adopting a learned posture of powerlessness.” As uncertainty and denial about climate have diminished, they have been replaced by similarly paralyzing feelings of panic, anxiety, and resignation. As we begin to live through the massive dangers imparted by climate change, as one psychologist put it to me, “We are in psychological terrain, whether we like it or not.”

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Love this from Chait, “he Most Unrealistic Promise Democrats Are Making Is to Restore Bipartisanship.”

The Obama presidency was an eight-year experiment in the possibility of obtaining Republican support for major initiatives. It is impossible to imagine a more conclusive result. Despite having jacked up the deficit during the entirety of the presidencies both before and after Obama’s, Republicans spent the entire time insisting on massive fiscal austerity despite facing objectively the most favorable conditions for stimulus spending since World War II. Obama’s offer to support John McCain’s cap-and-trade plan and Mitt Romney’s health-care plan drew almost zero Democratic and zero Republican votes, respectively. Republicans wouldn’t even accept a deal to trim Medicare spending in return for tax reform.

McConnell publicly stated his logic at the time: putting the bipartisan imprimatur on Obama’s policies would make the policies popular. More than mere strategy was at work. By waging partisan war against any of Obama’s initiatives, Republicans helped persuade their voters that his ideas — even those with a solid moderate Republican pedigree — were dangerous socialism. And the more fearful Republican voters became, the harder it was for Republicans to negotiate anything with Obama. Republicans were afraideven to be seen talking to the president. At times, when negotiations could not be avoided for bills whose passage was required to avert disaster, Obama would let Biden close the deal just to create the appearance that he hadn’t been part of it…

Democrats are going to have to choose between making real changes that can help their constituents and keeping a supermajority requirement in the Senate. There is no more cruelly unrealistic promise than the magical thinking being peddled by the Democratic party’s self-styled realists.

I’ve been a fan of Cory Booker for his honest talk on criminal justice issues.  But, I will say, his totally unrealistic take on bipartisanship has definitely lowered my opinion of him.

2) Good interview on how parents buy college admissions:

Is there anything you think your book got wrong or understated?

I think the general themes were right on point, and I don’t think it’s because I was so brilliant. I think it’s because this was a system that was hidden in plain view and was in front of your nose if only you looked, and also because it was so offensive to most people’s idea of what America is about. The fundamental ethos of America is equal opportunity and upward mobility and everybody gets a chance. The people who perform the best are supposed to rise to the top, and college education is supposed to be the driving force in upward mobility. So the idea that the wealthy can perpetuate their own privileged status through college admissions, that it’s not an equal gateway for everybody but a way to perpetuate American aristocracy, is a real affront to people. And that’s the resonance a case like this has.

3) Looking forward to reading Frans de Waal’s book on animal emotions:

Of course, we recognize ourselves in such stories. This is why they are powerful: They evoke our empathy, perhaps our most cherished emotional ability (one that we share with animals, as anyone who has lived with a dog well knows). But, to our detriment, researchers who study animal behavior have been methodically warned against exploring empathy as a means of understanding. Too many illuminating observations have gone unpublished because suggesting that humans share traits with other animals invites accusations of anthropomorphism.

To avoid such charges, researchers have invented a glossary of contorted terms: Animals don’t have friends but “favorite affiliation partners”; chimps don’t laugh when tickled, but make “vocalized panting” sounds.

This isn’t just silly; it’s dangerous. Instead of worrying about anthropomorphizing animals, we should fear making a far worse mistake, what de Waal calls “anthropodenial.” When we deny the facts of evolution, when we pretend that only humans think, feel and know, “it stands in the way of a frank assessment of who we are as a species,” he writes. An understanding of evolution demands that we recognize continuity across life-forms. And even more important, achieving realistic and compassionate relationships with the rest of the animate world requires that we honor these connections, which extend far and deep.

4) Top takeaways from Trump’s absurd budget:

4. The biggest losers: Under Trump’s budget proposal, 10 major departments and agencies would see their budgets slashed by 10 percent (or more) in the next year alone: Agriculture, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, State, Transportation, Corps of Engineers, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Trump administration likes to refer to a 5 percent cut in nondefense spending, but some agencies get far bigger chops than others. The EPA and Corps of Engineers would lose almost a third of their current funding.

5) The revolution will be fought over fabric softener (demand #3).

6) Interesting stuff from James Fallows on the 737 Max.

7) Chait on the fundamental lie of conservative populism:

The populist promises that set Trump apart during both the primary and the general election have simply failed to materialize. Trump’s budget, which proposes cuts to Medicare and Medicaid that he had famously pledged to oppose, is the latest evidence that he has simply defaulted to traditional movement conservatism.

Conservative populism has followed the same course in the United Kingdom and the United States. Right-wing politicians attached expansive promises to retrograde cultural panic to gain power, and once given a chance to follow through, have managed to deliver only the latter. These movements justified themselves as an authentic rebellion against the experts. The experts warned the promises were impossible. It turns out they knew what they were talking about.

8) Good stuff from Brian Schaffner and Samantha Luks:

The public’s party-driven misinformation and misperceptions about politics has drawn a great deal of attention from scholars over the past decade. While much of this research assumes that the misinformation documented by survey researchers is an accurate reflection of what individuals truly believe, other scholars have suggested that individuals intentionally and knowingly provide misinformation to survey researchers as a way of showing support for their political side. To date, it has been difficult to adjudicate between these two contrasting explanations for misperceptions. However, in this note, we provide such a test. We take advantage of a controversy regarding the relative sizes of crowds at the presidential inaugurations of Donald Trump in 2017 and Barack Obama in 2009 to ask a question where the answer is so clear and obvious to the respondents that nobody providing an honest response should answer incorrectly. Yet, at the same time, the question taps into a salient political controversy that provides incentives for Trump supporters to engage in expressive responding. We find clear evidence of expressive responding; moreover, this behavior is especially prevalent among partisans with higher levels of political interest. Our findings provide support for the notion that at least some of the misinformation reported in surveys is the result of partisan cheerleading rather than genuinely held misperceptions.

9) Ed Yong, “A New Discovery Upends What We Know About Viruses.”

10) The latest YA twitter mob could not be more karmically perfect or happen to a more-deserving target:

What Jackson’s case really demonstrates is just how narrow and untenable the rules for writing Y.A. literature are. In a tweet last May, Jackson himself more or less articulated them: “Stories about the civil rights movement should be written by black people. Stories of suffrage should be written by women. Ergo, stories about boys during life-changing times, like the AIDS epidemic, should be written by gay men. Why is this so hard to get?”

In a live Q. and A. for an online children’s literature conference in January, Jackson explained that he was at one point tempted to write tangentially about immigration,but his Latino friends talked him out of it: He’d be encroaching on their turf, poaching their spot on the shelves.

11) OMG Thom Tillis is the absolute worst.  There are important constitutional principles at stake.  Until Donald Trump convinces him otherwise.  This is beyond embarrassing:

North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis voted Thursday to support President Donald Trump’s Poor Thom Tillis. For a few shining days the Republican senator from North Carolina had a backbone. Then, in one crumbling moment Thursday afternoon, it went away…

The why, according to North Carolina’s junior senator, was that he’s heard “serious discussion” about changing the National Emergency Act so no “future left-wing president” can do what he was voting to allow the current right-wing president to do. The prospect of a change in the law was the fig leaf with which Tillis tried to cover his capitulation.

In a whopper worthy of the president himself, Tillis said he did not change his position out of concern that a vote against Trump would bring on a primary challenge when he stands for re-election in 2020.

Fear of the president’s disapproval and the wrath of his base clearly caused Tillis’ humiliating flip-flop. After his op-ed, North Carolina Republicans let him know that not being in lockstep with Trump left him out of step with them.

So, it’s okay to ignore Constitutional principles as long as you make it harder for a future “left wing president” to ignore the Constitution.  Riiiiiight.

12) With white Democrats ever-more secular, more candidates are ignoring the “and God bless America” platitudes.  This Christian says “hooray” because boy do I hate that crap.

While white progressives once described religion as something that brought Americans together, they’re now more likely to describe it as something that drives them apart.

It’s not hard to understand why. For starters, the percentage of white Democrats who express no religious affiliation has skyrocketed. According to unpublished data tabulated for me last year by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), 8 percent of white Democrats expressed no religious affiliation in 1990. By 2016, the figure was 33 percent. In 1990, white self-described liberals were 39 points more likely to describe themselves as Protestant than as religiously unaffiliated. By 2016, religiously unaffiliated beat Protestant by nine points.

Secular Democrats haven’t only grown more numerous. They’ve also become some of the party’s most motivated activists. As The Atlantic’s Emma Green has noted, a PRRI poll taken last August and September found that Democrats who shun organized religion were more than twice as likely to have attended a political rally in the previous year than Democrats who identify with a religious group. Today’s Democratic candidates cannot simply assert, as Obama did in 2004, that “we worship an awesome God in the blue states,” because so many active Democrats do not.

The other reason liberal candidates more often describe religion as a source of division is the rise of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. Before Donald Trump, Republican religious discourse was more ecumenical.

13) Paul Waldman on white identity politics and the future of the Republican Party:

It’s no accident that the members of Congress who have these folks so worried are a Latina and a Muslim woman, because what is coming to define a good portion of the Republican Party is a sense that white people are not just losing something today but are under the threat of cultural, political and even physical annihilation.

In its extreme form, it’s defined as “white genocide,” a term common among white supremacists who believe that the white race is literally in danger of being wiped out. In a less extreme form, it manifests in people being increasingly drawn to white identity politics.

We have to be clear what we mean when we say that. In her upcoming book, “White Identity Politics,” political scientist Ashley Jardina clarifies that the term should be understood to refer not just to straightforward racism but to something more particular. White identity politics is about whiteness becoming an organizing political factor, a group identity that leads people to seek certain things and favor certain policies because of how they will affect white people.

he presidency of Barack Obama had a great deal to do with the current white identity politics, and in hindsight we might see it as inevitable that a racist demagogue would emerge to exploit the backlash Obama produced. That’s why Ta-Nehisi Coates referred to Trump as “the first white president,” arguing that his 2016 campaign should be understood as an assertion that whites had to retake power and restore (as they saw it) their rightful place atop the hierarchy.

What motivates it isn’t just hostility to minorities but fear that whites will be overrun, oppressed and eventually eliminated, and the solution is in turn to banish minorities from wherever white people are feeling this threat, whether it’s the United States, Europe or New Zealand…

Many Republicans would protest that their party affiliation is based not on racial fears of extinction but on things such as support for small government and tax cuts, or opposition to abortion rights and marriage equality. And they aren’t lying. But it’s also undeniable that with Trump in charge — and with the party having given itself over to him so completely, at least for now — white identity politics now defines the GOP. But what will they do as it drags them down? [emphasis mine]

15) Never heard of “curling parents” before.  Enjoyed this in Chronicle of Higher Ed.

‘Curling’ Parents

People used to talk about helicopter parents, said Jump, the college counselor. These days, he said, the term is “curling parents,” a reference to the Olympic sport. Parenting, in other words, is no longer about hovering over one’s children. It’s about sweeping problems out of their way.

The desire to insulate children from problems also emerged in Calarco’s research. She interviewed a mother who said, “I just don’t want my kids to suffer.” That’s a nearly universal sentiment. But in this particular example, Calarco said, it was the mother’s explanation for why she would run her children’s homework to school if they forgot it at home.

If that’s your definition of suffering, then not getting into your top-choice college is a real hardship.

16) Leonhardt is right, “The Admissions Scandal Is Really a Sports Scandal.”

The researchers were given access to anonymous admissions records at 19 elite colleges and then analyzed how admissions offices treated different groups of students. Low-income students, for example, were no more likely to be admitted than otherwise similar students with virtually identical academic records. So-called legacy students — those whose parents attended the same schools — received substantial boosts. So did underrepresented minorities.

But the biggest boost went to recruited athletes: An athlete was about 30 percentage points more likely to be admitted than a nonathlete with the same academic record…

If the accusations are true, they’re outrageous. But they also highlight a larger problem that has somehow become acceptable: A scam like this could exist only because competitive sports occupy a ridiculously large place in the admissions process.

The situation is different for other extracurricular activities. Great musicians are more likely to be admitted to a college than similar students who don’t play an instrument — as is only fair, because musicians deserve credit for their accomplishments. But the musicians don’t generally receive a 30-percentage-point boost on their admissions chances. Stage managers for the high school theater don’t, either. Nor do student body presidents, debaters, yearbook editors or robotics competitors.

Athletes do. Their extracurricular activities are not treated merely as an important part of a college application, but as a defining part. [emphasis mine]

17) OMG this is crazy!  Sort-of-identical twins. 75% genetically related and boy girl.  Whoa.

One boy. One girl.

Sharing a single placenta.

“It doesn’t add up,” Dr. Fisk recalled thinking.

As it turned out, the twins were neither fraternal nor identical. They fell into a third rare category known as semi-identical or sesquizygotic twins. Although it would take several years to prove, he was looking at the first set of semi-identical twins to be identified during pregnancy, according to a paper published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

18) I used to really enjoy Frances Scott on the local news.  Horrible to read how an artificial hip replacement that should have never happened (there was already evidence that the replacements causes metal poisoning) basically ruined her life.  Ugh.

19) Apollo 11 is amazing!  Go see it on a big screen if you can.

This is what deregulation looks like

So, at first you may just see this from the NYT as a sad story about for-profit college gone awry and the many unfortunate students who are left in its wake:

When the Education Department approved a proposal by Dream Center, a Christian nonprofit with no experience in higher education, to buy a troubled chain of for-profit colleges, skeptics warned that the charity was unlikely to pull off the turnaround it promised.

What they didn’t foresee was just how quickly and catastrophically it would fail.

Barely a year after the takeover, dozens of Dream Center campuses are nearly out of money and may close as soon as Friday. More than a dozen others have been sold in the hope they can survive.

The affected schools — Argosy University, South University and the Art Institutes — have about 26,000 students in programs spanning associate degrees in dental hygiene and doctoral programs in law and psychology. Fourteen campuses, mostly Art Institute locations, have a new owner after a hastily arranged transfer involving private equity executives. More than 40 others are under the control of a court-appointed receiver who has accused school officials of trying to keep the doors open by taking millions of dollars earmarked for students…

Now its students — many with credits that cannot be easily transferred — are stuck in a meltdown. On Wednesday, members of the faculty at Argosy’s Chicago and Northern Virginia campuses told students that they had been fired and instructed to remove their belongings. In Phoenix, an unpaid landlord locked students out of their classrooms. In California, a dean advised students two months away from graduation not to invite family to attend from out of town.

“In less than a month, everything I have worked for the past three years has been taken from me,” said Jayne Kenney, who is pursuing her doctorate in clinical psychology at Argosy’s Chicago campus. “I am also conscious of the fact that what seems like the swift fall of an ax in less than one month has in reality been festering for years.”

But if you have followed the issue of for-profit colleges at all you know this is very much a political story:

The problems, arising amid the Trump administration’s broad efforts to deregulate the for-profit college industry, began almost immediately after Dream Center acquired the schools in 2017…

Led by Secretary Betsy DeVos, the Education Department has reversed an Obama-era crackdown on troubled vocational and career schools, allowing new and inexperienced entrants into the field [emphasis mine]

“The industry was on its heels, but they’ve been given new life by the department under DeVos,” said Eileen Connor, the director of litigation at Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending.

Ms. DeVos, who invested in companies with ties to for-profit collegesbefore taking office, has made it an agency priority to unfetter for-profit schools by eliminating restrictions on them. She also allowed a growing number of for-profit schools to evade even those loosened rules by converting to nonprofits.

This is the reality of deregulation.  Those regulations are there for a reason, i.e., to prevent students from having the disastrous experience of those in this story.  Open things up and ease those “burdensome regulations” and students get scammed.  That’s Trump’s “deregulated” America.

 

This post is late; there’s value in reading it anyway

So, one of the cool things about having my oldest in college is seeing things from the perspective of a parent as well as a professor.  For the most part, it has only confirmed my various convictions about how I do things, but it has definitely made me more aware than ever (and I already was decently good) on the price of textbooks, etc.

I’ve always had a policy where I allow late papers and tests, but, with a significant grade penalty.  Obviously, not having any grade penalty at all is like not having a deadline, so that’s a no-go.  And, there are, of course, professors who just don’t accept late assignments.  My thought has always been that, sure, some students will take advantage, but life intervenes and you just need to give people a break.  My deadlines are ultimately arbitrary and this is not life and death here.  So, my take was that because I’m a “nice” professor and because life is complicated, sure, I take late assignments.  And I never thought too much more about it than that.

Until, recently, though when said son had a professor refuse to accept any late assignments.  What really frustrated me about this was that I realized without doing the assignments, my son was simply not going to learn the material they were based upon nearly as well.  What’s the point of giving assignments as professors if we don’t think there’s really value in those assignments help the students learn the underlying material?!  By refusing to accept late assignments at all a professor is saying they think the goal of teaching the importance of following (ultimately, arbitrary) deadlines is more important that the goal of teaching the underlying course material.  That’s nuts.  I don’t question for a moment a professor’s prerogative in teaching their class this way, but I do think they are flat out making a mistake in privileging teaching deadlines over teaching the value of the course material.  Unless your class is “proper adult behavior, deadlines, and other real world stuff” your primary goal should be on students learning history, math, chemistry, etc.

So, in this case, my policy on lateness has not changed at all, but my rationale has.  I now accept assignments late not because I’m “nice,” but because I actually believe my assignments are important and help my students learn the course material and important research and writing skills.  And, yes, there’s still a late penalty because deadlines matter, they are just not the most important thing.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Sorry, I can’t let Howard Schultz go.  Eric Levitz on his vapid town hall:

A promise to make health care affordable for every single American — which is to say, to extend insurance to the nearly 30 million people who currently lack it, and drastically reduce costs for the one in four Americanswho currently forgo necessary medical care because even with insurance they cannot afford it — without increasing the deficit, significantly raising taxes, or disrupting the private insurance market. (Schultz feels no obligation to specify how he would do this.)

This is indicative of Schultz’s broader program. For all his bluster about the Democratic Party’s unrealistic promises — and the left’s refusal to recognize the necessity of legislative compromise — Schultz offered CNN’s audience virtually nothing beyond unrealistic promises and statements that betrayed an ostensible ignorance of the necessity of legislative compromise. On the latter count: Any political observer with a rudimentary understanding of the U.S. Senate would know that, if a voter wants incremental improvements to the health-care system — but not Medicare for All — they will (almost certainly) get what they’re looking for from any Democratic nominee; even president Bernie Sanders will not be able to pass any legislation without the approval of red-state Democrats like Jon Tester and Kyrsten Sinema. Which is to say, to the extent that Schultz is proposing concrete policies, they are just less-detailed versions of the Democratic Party’s consensus positions.

2) Chait on the “emergency.”

As a matter of principle, the Constitution establishes a system that requires the House, Senate, and the president to approve new laws. In some cases, expediency requires the president to act unilaterally. Those rare cases are not defined as emergencies because they’re important — lots of policy is important, even life-threatening. The emergencies are cases where the executive needs to act in an especially urgent way, and where congressional involvement may not be practical…

The anticipation that courts will smack down Trump’s attempted power grab has created some complacency about the brazenness of his attempt. The clever take in Washington is that Trump is claiming emergency powers knowing full well he will probably lose.

But it hardly vindicates the president. Trump impulsively engineered a government shutdown out of the mistaken belief that somehow it would give him leverage over Democrats, and without any understanding of the humanitarian fallout. After he quickly realized it wouldn’t, he made almost no effort to negotiate in good faith, even though it certainly would be possible to imagine immigration policies most Democrats and some Republicans would want enough to authorize more border-security funding.

Having deliberately inflicted pain on his own country on a whim, he is defying democratic norms in order to extricate himself from the humiliation of a retreat. That he is likely to lose may mitigate the offense, but doesn’t excuse it. Trump has at minimum proven that he lacks the temperament or basic competence to serve as president of the United States.

3) Jordan Weissman is right about this plan to allow Medicare buy-in for those 50 and over, “Moderate Democrats Are in Love With a Tepid and Outdated Idea to Fix Health Care.”

4) Yasha Mounk on the “emergency”

Americans often like to imagine that their system of checks and balances is a secure bulwark against the threat of autocracy. But in reality, no set of political institutions is, in and of itself, enough to constrain a popular and power-hungry president intent on destroying the republic. One of the reasons for this is the classic problem of the state of emergency, with which political philosophers and students of the law have grappled ever since the Roman Republic.

As Cicero argued in De Legibus, the safety of the people is the highest law; when a polity faces some unforeseen emergency, there may thus be urgent and legitimate need to loosen some of the ordinary legal restrictions on the powers of the highest magistrate. At the same time, it is obvious that any legal recognition of the need for emergency powers creates a huge opportunity for abuse; if an aspiring autocrat declares a false emergency, he would instantly be liberated from the usual constraints on his power. The history of the 20th century demonstrates that this is no abstract concern: From Adolf Hitler in Germany to Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, some of the most brutal dictators of the past hundred years have consolidated their power by exploiting emergency legislation.

5) I’m covering this in my public policy class and I don’t recall sharing it here before (and if I have, it’s really good).  David Roberts, “What genuine, no-bullshit ambition on climate change would look like.”

6) Nice piece from Paul Waldman, “Warren and Klobuchar demonstrate the fundamental divide among Democrats.’

This is Warren’s articulation of the problem: Not just that the system is rigged — something Trump said in 2016 — but that it’s rigged by and for a specific group of wealthy individuals who shape it for their own benefit. This willingness to name the villains of the story she tells distinguishes Warren from many of the other candidates.

She also said, “We can’t afford to just tinker around the edges—a tax credit here, a regulation there. Our fight is for big, structural change.” She then outlined an agenda for economic and political reform to change how the system operates. So to summarize, Warren says the problem is a system rigged by the wealthy; the solution is a series of broad and fundamental policy changes that take away their power to continue rigging the system. She’s the one to implement them, because though she came from a poor family, she had the opportunities she says are lacking in the United States today, and she has spent a career understanding and attempting to confront the forces that limit those opportunities for ordinary people.

Klobuchar detailed some of the same policy proposals as Warren, such as reforms to reduce political corruption and guarantee voting rights. She did name some particular individuals — a reference to “dark forces” attacking voting rights, another to “tax loopholes designed by and for the wealthy,” and criticisms of pharmaceutical companies and the gun lobby — but she didn’t tie them together in a single us-vs.-them critique. For Klobuchar, the real problem is “our politics,” a system in which everyone is implicated and everyone can have a part in improving.

7) NC legislature considering revising the law on alcohol sales.  Just sad that Republicans still justify laws with rationales like this,

The state could make more money by allowing ABC stories to open on Sundays. North Carolina is one of only eight states that doesn’t allow liquor store sales on Sundays.

“I think we need Sunday free for the Lord’s day,” said Rep. Pat Hurley, a Republican from Randolph County.

8) This professor says that email is “making professors stupid.”  Yeah, it seems like some workdays are all about email management (but in reality, those emails are generally about my teaching, research, and service) and I don’t think it’s making me stupid.

9) Sorry, I cannot let Howard Schulz go, but his campaign really is illustrative about so much in American politics.  Ezra, “Howard Schultz’s campaign is based on 3 ideas, and they’re all wrong.

10) When it comes to advanced analytics, I just love learning about hockey (especially goaltending).  Love this 538 trying to figure out why scoring is noticeably up in hockey this year.  TLDR– it’s not clear, but it’s fun to watch.

11) David Hopkins, “There Are No Clear Lane Markers on the Road to the White House.”

Political journalists are fond of metaphors, and one recent analogy that seems to be rising in general usage is the comparison of the presidential nomination process to a highway with multiple “lanes” corresponding to identifiable party factions or subgroups. According to this view, each candidate and primary voter resides in a specific party lane (or, on rare occasions, can straddle the boundary between two lanes). The best-positioned candidates in the race, then, will be those who can unite the voters in their lane—either because they have it all to themselves from the start, or because they quickly knock similarly-situated candidates off the road…

While some of these analytical attempts to sort out the primary competition contain grains of truth—there are, after all, identifiable constituencies within the parties that are more or less attracted to various candidates—the “lanes” model of characterizing nomination contests is fundamentally flawed and potentially misleading. It rests on assumptions about how voters behave in party primaries that don’t hold up in reality, as the history of presidential nominations (including the 2016 race) makes very clear…

It’s important to understand how candidates behave strategically to build electoral coalitions and, to the best of our ability, to identify what considerations prompt voters to choose a specific candidate. But any conceptual model of nomination politics needs to incorporate a large random error term, representing the varying effects of personal charisma, persuasive advertising, memorable debate performances, catchy slogans, journalistic takedowns, verbal gaffes, and other factors that have proved difficult to anticipate yet can be just as influential as substantive positions or group membership in shaping voters’ evaluations of the candidates. We’re about a year away from primary and caucus participants being asked to officially register their preferences, which means that we’re still a year away from rank-and-file Democrats beginning to settle on their choice of nominee. It’s a long road to the nomination, and the vagaries of timing and luck ensure that many unforeseen twists and turns still lie far ahead.

12) Interesting take on the Amazon HQ2 mess:

No deal has garnered as much attention as Amazon’s, particularly since local politicians engaged in dozens of publicity stunts designed to woo the retail giant. While the company was searching for new offices, its value ballooned to $1 trillion and Bezos became the richest man in modern history. Meanwhile, investigative reports trickled out all year about the company’s brutal labor practices. The news often came with some mention of HQ2.

LeRoy says Amazon has indeed inadvertently highlighted public subsidies, which corporations have been able to negotiate largely in the dark. “I think Amazon is not winning a lot of love from corporate America for that,” he says. Deals between governments and other tech companies—and the secrecy surrounding them—are receiving scrutiny, too. Two nonprofits are suing San Jose, California, over a $67 million deal to sell government land to Google for new office space. The organizations argue city officials illegally signed nondisclosure agreements with the tech giant.

But the outcry over Amazon’s HQ2 search won’t necessarily have a lasting impact on the way government officials hand out subsidies to corporations. Jensen says he’s witnessed a number of governments make cosmetic reforms, like introducing rules requiring companies verify the number of jobs they end up producing, but that fundamental issues often don’t get addressed. “I think the PR of this decision hasn’t been positive and there is a potential for a backlash,” he says. “But I feel like I have seen enough terrible economic development scandals that go by the wayside.”

13) Sean Illing on the “emergency,” “Trump declared a national emergency at the border. I asked 11 experts if it’s legal. Spoiler alert: probably not.”  This is really useful for understanding the legal basis of why Trump will likely lose in court.  And it’s not about the obvious lack of urgency.

14) An interesting take on modern journalism, “Journalism is not dying.  It’s returning to its roots.”

If, however, you explained Twitter, the blogosphere, and newsy partisan outlets like Daily Kos or National Review to the Founding Fathers, they’d recognize them instantly. A resurrected Franklin wouldn’t have a news job inside The Washington Post; he’d have an anonymous Twitter account with a huge following that he’d use to routinely troll political opponents, or a partisan vehicle built around himself like Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire, or an occasional columnist gig at a less partisan outlet like Politico, or a popular podcast where he’d shoot the political breeze with other Sons of Liberty, à la Chapo Trap House or Pod Save America. “Journalism dying, you say?” Ben Franklin v 2.0 might say. “It’s absolutely blooming, as it was in my day.”

What is dying, perhaps, is that flavor of “objective” journalism that purports to record an unbiased account of world events. We take journalistic objectivity to be as natural and immutable as the stars, but it’s a relatively short-lived artifact of 20th-century America. Even now it’s foreign to Europeans—cities such as London cultivate a rowdy passel of partisan scribblers who don’t even pretend there’s an impregnable wall between reportage and opinion. The US was much the same until the late 19th and early 20th century. Until 1900 or so, most newspapers were overtly political, and a name like The Press Democrat meant Democrat with a big D. Advertising was a minor concern, as party leaders encouraged members to subscribe to their local party organ, obviating the need for anything more than classifieds.

15) A rare link courtesy of my youngest son, who sent me this interesting article about the rise of “legacy” board games.  Sorry, I won’t be buying games anytime soon in which I have to tear up cards.

16) Before this season, I was feeling pretty flat about Duke basketball– despite a lifetime of fandom– due to all the one-and-doneness.  But, damn, Zion Williamson’s super-human ability and amazing joie de vivre is his play have brought me fully back on board for this season at least.

Quick hits (part II)

1) I don’t usually agree with Brett Stephens, but I profoundly agree with his central point in his column about Northam:

He may have done something ugly and dumb many years ago, when he was a young man and prevailing notions of socially permissible behavior were uglier and dumber than they are today. In the face of a political and reputational disaster he has stumbled badly in explaining himself. If he weathers the scandal, it will mainly be because all of his potential successors have grave compromises of their own.

In the 35 years between those two points he has, by all appearances, lived an upstanding life without a hint of racial bias. If we are going to embrace a politics where that’s not enough to save a sitting governor accused of no crime, we’re headed toward a dark place.

That’s because we believe that our worst moments and dumbest utterances shouldn’t define us. That our youthful behavior is more of a reflection of what is around us than a representation of what’s inside. That we deserve to be judged by the decency of our intentions and the totality of our deeds. That we are entitled to a presumption of innocence, a measure of forgiveness, a sense for our times, and multiple opportunities for redemption. [emphasis mine]

2) It’s really kind of amazing the way the Supreme Court’s conservatives are so willing to blatantly and transparently ignore the first amendment’s admonition against favoring a religion when that religion is Christianity.

3) Interesting take on Northam– he’s the first actual Southerner Virginia has had for governor in over two decades.

4) Shockingly to nobody but Susan Collins, Brett Kavanaugh believes in neither precedent, Roe v. Wade, (or honestly the need for logic in Supreme Court opinions).

5) Great piece on media bias from Peter Hamby, “The ultimate bias in journalism is not political. It’s toward controversy, gaffes, and scandal—shiny new things that get ratings and shares and downloads. There’s a rather obvious lesson here for Democrats seeking the White House—and for media elites who are tragically out of touch with how Americans actually consume the news.”

6) As I have to keep telling my students, money is far from the most important thing in interest group influence.  Of course, the NRA is super-influential, but even lots of spending does not necessarily get them what they want, “NRA Spent Record Amount Lobbying Congress, With Little to Show.”

7) Jonathan Rauch and Peter Wehner, “Republicans Got Us Into This Mess, and They Have to Get Us Out of It”

The most troubling — and from our point of view the most disappointing — development of the Trump era is not the president’s own election and subsequent behavior; it is the institutional corruption, weakness and self-betrayal of the Republican Party. The party has abandoned its core commitments to constitutional norms, to conservative principles and even to basic decency. It has allowed itself to be hijacked by a reality television star who is a pathological liar, emotionally unsteady and accountable only to himself. And Republicans have embraced presidential conduct that, had it been engaged in by a Democrat, they would have denounced as corrupt, incompetent and even treasonous.

We disagree with those who think that Mr. Trump’s removal by his own party would weaken democratic accountability; if anything, the opposite is true. The United States has only two major political parties, and it needs both to be healthy, rational and small-d democratic. They are our system’s most durable and accountable political institutions and they comprise its first and most important line of defense against political demagogues and conscience-free charlatans. By reasserting its institutional prerogatives — by setting limits to the depredations and recklessness it will accept — the Republican Party would be acting to deter hijackers in the future. In doing so, it would defend our democracy, not weaken it.

8) Late-term abortions back in the news these days.  It’s important to remember that the vast majority of these abortions (which are a tiny fraction of the overall number) are due to horrible birth defects and genuine threats to the mother.  My mom had a friend who was had two pregnancies with anencephaly (do the Greek on that) and it was a pretty horrible experience.

9) Lamar Alexander sounds like he’s making sense on college student loans.  Maybe I’m missing something.

10) Even with the polar vortex January was unusually warm.

11) If you want to talk about “bad faith” when it comes to Republicans and budget deficits, you’d be hard pressed to find a better example than Mick Mulvaney.

12) Jelani Cobb on Northam:

Yet there were other reasons that warranted taking a pause before calling for Northam’s resignation. The governor ran on a progressive platform that included free community college, greater access to health care, criminal-justice reform, a fifteen-dollar-an-hour minimum wage, and a rollback of voter-suppression laws in the state. Every one of those things would have disproportionately benefitted the black residents of Virginia. The yearbook photograph is indisputably terrible. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a monument that commemorates the victims of lynching and racial terrorism in America, lists more than four thousand black people who lost their lives to recreational murder in the South. No person who has even the dimmest recognition of what happened to those victims could find humor in a Klansman’s robes. Yet the more salient question, one that could not be answered in the clamor for Northam’s immediate ejection, was how his moral sensibilities had evolved in the intervening three decades.

The odds are high that a fifty-nine-year-old white Southerner would have grown up in a climate of ambient racism. The odds are also high that such a person might never find reason to publicly renounce that past. There is, however, an important tradition of white Southerners—Lillian SmithHarper LeeHowell RainesDiane McWhorter, and, more recently, Mitch Landrieu, the former mayor of New Orleans—publicly grappling with the racist legacy of the region and their own efforts to move beyond it to discover a broader recognition of humanity. (The late Robert Byrd, who served for more than fifty years as a senator from West Virginia, spoke openly about the wrongheadedness of his youthful membership in the Klan.) The example of Landrieu, a possible Presidential candidate in 2020, is particularly instructive. In 2017, he delivered a widely praised speech in which he not only called for the removal of racist monuments from city property in New Orleans but also explained the need to reject the warped view of history that had led to their erection in the first place. Northam’s situation was far more self-interested, but he nonetheless had, for a moment, space to address his prior actions in a way that might have at least been thought-provoking. But no.

13) I’m familiar with dynamic range in photography, but had never really thought about it in popular music.  Turns out the music of today is just plain louder with a much more limited dynamic range (and lots of cool charts here to prove it).

14) I do like that Democrats are pushing hard and bold on environmental policy.  But, I’d like it even better if the plans they pushed were more carefully thought through.  Chait on the Green New Deal:

Enacting an aggressive climate-change policy faces two large obstacles. The first is that every aspect of the policy contains a multitude of knotty technocratic challenges. It entails developing programs to wring carbon emissions out of the power sector, buildings, transportation, agriculture, and changing laws at the federal, state, and local levels. The difficulties faced by the long-developing bullet train in California, a state entirely controlled by Democrats, show how challenging it can be to carry out reforms that require buy-in from lots of stakeholders.

The second problem is political. Any national-level response quickly runs into the fact that, even if Democrats gain full control of government in 2021, and even if they abolish the filibuster or find a way to design a bill that can get around it, they will need the votes of moderate or conservative Democrats from fossil-fuel-producing states. The overrepresentation of oil, gas, and coal-producing areas in the Senate helped kill a modest energy tax under Bill Clinton, and a more ambitious cap and trade program under Barack Obama.

Also, adding in the part about paying for people unable or unwilling to work has the potential to be pilloried by Republicans for ages.

15) I also found this twitter thread on the matter to be a super-interesting way of looking at the underlying issues.

16) If we really believe in rehabilitation and redemption, than even former murderers should be able to work as attorneys.  I’d hire him.

17) Found this 538 feature on young, influential, anti-capitalist Democrats to be pretty interesting.  Personally, like Elizabeth Warren, I just think we need to do capitalism a lot better.

18) And speaking of Warren, I enjoyed Krugman’s take on the seriousness of her ideas:

Which brings me to the case of Elizabeth Warren, who is probably today’s closest equivalent to Moynihan in his prime.

Like Moynihan, she’s a serious intellectual turned influential politician. Her scholarly work on bankruptcy and its relationship to rising inequality made her a major player in policy debate long before she entered politics herself. Like many others, I found one of her key insights — that rising bankruptcy rates weren’t caused by profligate consumerism, that they largely reflected the desperate attempts of middle-class families to buy homes in good school districts — revelatory.

She has also proved herself able to translate scholarly insights into practical policy. Full disclosure: I was skeptical about her brainchild, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I didn’t think it was a bad idea, but I had doubts about how much difference a federal agency tasked with policing financial fraud would make. But I was wrong: Deceptive financial practices aimed at poorly informed consumers do a lot of harm, and until President Trump sabotaged it, the bureau was by all accounts having a hugely salutary effect on families’ finances.

And Warren’s continuing to throw out unorthodox policy ideas, like her proposal that the federal government be allowed to get into the business of producing some generic drugs. This is the sort of thing that brings howls of derision from the right, but that actual policy experts consider a valuable contribution to the discussion.

Is there anyone like Warren on the other side of the aisle? No. Not only aren’t there any G.O.P. politicians with comparable intellectual heft, there aren’t even halfway competent intellectuals with any influence in the party. The G.O.P. doesn’t want people who think hard and look at evidence; it wants people like, say, the “economist” Stephen Moore, who slavishly reaffirm the party’s dogma, even if they can’t get basic facts straight.

19) Josh Marshall throws some cold water on the Medicare-for-all cheerleaders:

Much of the debate is being carried on on the basis of polling and claims about public opinion that are highly misleading and in some cases intentionally so.

The point is simple. When you poll “Medicare for All” or “a national universal coverage plan” you get anywhere from clear to overwhelming majorities of public support – numbers ranging sometimes into the 60s or even 70s percentages. But when you add a range of the most obvious counters or negatives of such a plan, support drops dramatically.

For instance, if you ask about support for Medicare for All if respondents heard it would “eliminate health insurance premiums and reduce out-of-pocket health care costs for most Americans” you get 67% support and 30% opposition. But if you say it would “eliminate private health insurance companies” support drops to 37%. If you say that it would “require most Americans to pay more in taxes” that also pulls support down to 37%. (These numbers are all from this poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation from last month.)

Now there are good and clear rejoinders to both these criticisms, especially the second. Yes, it would lead to higher taxes. But certainly for the average American those new taxes would be less than the amount of money they currently pay in health insurance premiums. But this gets to a bigger point about politics. You never get to manage a political fight by defining the question entirely on your own terms or un-rebutted. Your opponents get to do the same. Some of those counter arguments will just be baseless or false and they need to be countered as such. With Medicare for All you will almost certainly hear Republicans talking about rationing, death panels, socialism and the like. Medicare for All would probably still include private health insurance providers offering supplementary plans as they currently do with Medicare for seniors. Some version of that exists in most countries with a national health care system. But it would almost certainly eliminate, either in practice or in law, health care plans as we currently know them, plans that provide a single source of reimbursement or coverage for all medical care…

My point here isn’t to throw cold water on the whole effort or demoralize people who see Medicare for All moving to the center of the national debate. But it is a mistake to pretend it’s wildly popular or will be wildly popular in an actual political or legislative debate. Because that’s deeply misleading. It also leads to other confusions. Are Democratic leaders resisting the push for Medicare for All because they’re neo-liberal shills or corrupt weaklings? Or is it because they realize it’s much more political challenging than supporters claim. It may be a bit of each. But people are substantially understating the latter possibility.

20) Chait makes a nice case for an inheritance tax, “An Inheritance Tax Is Democrats’ Best Weapon Against Trump’s Oligarchy.”

21) Flipping channels the other night and “Out of Sight” was on.   Ended up watching the whole thing for the first time in the 20 years since it came out.  Damn that’s a good movie.

22) And, of the newer variety, loved the documentary Three identical strangers.”

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