Category: Public Policy

Martin Luther King, Jr. has to be turning over in his grave. Just when you think America may be on the path to no longer judging people on the basis of skin color, we run into nonsense like the decision last fall by the Florida Department of Education, to institute race-based education standards. According to CBS News in Tampa, the Florida Department of Education,

passed a revised strategic plan that says that by 2018, it wants 90 percent of Asian students, 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of black students to be reading at or above grade level. For math, the goals are 92 percent of Asian kids to be proficient, whites at 86 percent, Hispanics at 80 percent and blacks at 74 percent. It also measures by other groupings, such as poverty and disabilities.

This plan seems to be the exact opposite of what Dr. King died for back in 1968. What the plan clearly communicates is the soft bigotry of low expectations. In light of the logical backlash against the race-based proposal, there have been some attempts to defend the new Florida policy as something other than what it clearly is. For example, Alex Yahanda, senior associate editor for The Cavalier Daily, attempted to spin the proposal this way:
(more…)

Philip at the Solovki monastery

In the most recent issue of Religion & Liberty, the “In the Liberal Tradition” section profiles Metropolitan St. Philip II of Moscow for his defense of faith and freedom in the face of the tyranny of Tsar Ivan IV, known to history as “Ivan the Terrible.” In contrast to Ivan, who used his power to oppress his own people, Philip taught, “He alone can in truth call himself sovereign who is master of himself, who is not subject to his passions and conquers by charity.” Among the many spiritual disciplines of the Orthodox Christian spiritual tradition geared towards freeing a person from being “subject to his passions,” we can see Philip’s love of labor in his many projects at the Solovki monastery in the years before he was made Metropolitan of Moscow. (more…)

When I was twelve my family lived on a small, dry piece of land in rural Texas. Since we lived far outside of any city limits, we couldn’t rely on services like water (we had a well), sewage (we had a septic tank), or sanitation (we had a 12-year-old boy and a 50-gallon burn barrel). Before my weekend free-time could begin, I’d have a list of chores to get done, including burning the week’s trash and burying the ashes in a pit dug in the back field.

forks-garbage-collection-1d60cf213d2f6b3aOne terrible Saturday I learned a valuable lesson about not burning spray paint cans when the wind is gusting at speeds that would get you ticketed in a school zone. The explosion was small but the brush was dry, and the ensuing fire came perilously close to my neighbors on three sides. Fortunately, the intervention of God and the Eastland County Volunteer Fire Department contained the blaze, saving my hide and several homes.

That was the day I gained an undying appreciation for firefighters—and sanitation workers. We don’t fully value the work of “garbagemen” until we have to live without their services.

Considering that urban civilization would degenerate into chaos and disease without their labor, society is shockingly unappreciative of the men and women who maintain our system of sanitation disposal. It’s not surprising, then, that few people are eager for such a career considering the work is thankless, dirty, and dangerous. Indeed, astonishingly dangerous: Sanitation workers have twice the fatality rates of police offers, and nearly seven times the fatality rates of firefighters.

But the work also requires a special type of knowledge and intelligence. Anthropologist Robin Nagle joined the ranks of the underappreciated sanitation workers of New York City and discovered what life in the mysterious world of trash collection was really like:
(more…)

Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel and the Chicago Public School (CPS) System have reached an agreement that the way to cover the school system’s $1 billion deficit is to restructure the system by closing 54 under-utilized schools. This type of fiscal responsibility may be prudent in the private sector but it is being protested in Chicago as USA Today reports:

Jesse Ruiz, vice president of the Chicago Board of Education, says the number of schools must be pared because many are under-utilized due to a shrinking student population — the number of Chicago residents fell by 200,418 from 2000 to 2010 — and because the district faces a $1 billion budget shortfall. About 30,000 children will be moved. Schools are currently equipped to accommodate 511,000 students; enrollment now is 403,000.

The school closing disproportionately affects African-American neighborhoods because Chicago’s population loss has been primarily in the African-American community like we are seeing in cities like New York, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. According to recent reporting,
(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Thursday, March 28, 2013

The African diaspora—nearly 140 million Africans live abroad—is such a major source of foreign income that it now outstrips foreign aid sent by Western donors. The money these expatriates send back home is collectively worth far more than the development donations sent by Western financial institutions, says Adams Bodomo:

africa-money-bankingThe exact amount of these remittances is unknown because not all of it is sent through official banking channels. But the official volume to the continent has gradually increased over the years, from $11 billion in 2000 to $60 billion in 2012, according to the World Bank. As a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP), remittances in Africa range from next-to-nothing to almost 5%.

Worldwide remittances to developing countries were $351 billion in 2011, far exceeding the $129 billion in official development assistance (ODA), according to the World Bank.

The remittances paid by Africans living abroad also rival official aid to the continent. Total diaspora contributions to Africa in 2010 stood at $51.8 billion compared to the roughly $43 billion in ODA, according to the latest figures from the World Bank.

Bodomo offers several compelling reasons why remittances are a better source of development than foreign aid:
(more…)

In this week’s Acton Commentary, “Not Quite Alone in the Wilderness,” I examine the intergenerational infrastructure of innovation and civilization through the lens of Richard “Dick” Proenneke, whose efforts to build a cabin in the Alaskan wild, alone and by hand, are recorded in the popular documentary, often featured on PBS.

Here’s a clip that gives an extended introduction into the project:

As Proenneke says, “I was alone, just me and the animals.” In his recent book Redeeming Economics, John Mueller relates how classical economists would often use the fictional example of Robinson Crusoe, who was shipwrecked on an island and left to survive alone, to get at the anthropological knowledge necessary for a coherent political economy. In this week’s piece, I do something like this with Proenneke, whose experiment has the advantage of being something that actually happened.
(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Over 100,000 students in Texas are on the charter school wait list—and with the number of charter schools capped at 215, they have a long wait ahead of them.

schools-texasBut state senator Dan Patrick—a self-described “education evangelist”—is attempting to implement a radical educational reform. Patrick is sponsoring two consequential school choice proposals. One would remove the limit on the number of licenses Texas issues to operate charter schools and created a special board to oversee the new charter applications he expects will follow. The other is a voucher plan that would allow businesses to earn tax credits for donations that help poor and at-risk children leave public schools for private or religious ones.

The legislation could help close the achievement gaps between white and minority students and between low-income students and their more affluent peers. As the Heritage Foundation notes,
(more…)

There are 14 million Americans who are out of work yet don’t show up in the monthly unemployment statistics. The federal government spends more money each year on cash payments for this group than it spends on food stamps and welfare combined. They are part of the hidden social safety net. They are the disabled former workers.

disability-approvedNPR’s Planet Money has produced a fascinating report on the growth of federal disability programs and what disability means for American workers. Here are some of the highlights.

Whether you’re disabled often depends on your education level and what types of work you can do:

“We talk about the pain and what it’s like,” he says. “I always ask them, ‘What grade did you finish?’”

What grade did you finish, of course, is not really a medical question. But Dr. Timberlake believes he needs this information in disability cases because people who have only a high school education aren’t going to be able to get a sit-down job.

Dr. Timberlake is making a judgment call that if you have a particular back problem and a college degree, you’re not disabled. Without the degree, you are.

(more…)

irsIf a worker owes their employer thousands of dollars and refuses to pay the debt, should they be fired or have their wages garnished? What if the employer is the federal government?

Astoundingly, more than 100,000 federal employees owe more than $1 billion in federal taxes. To provide an incentive for them to pay up, a House committee approved legislation that would require the firing of government workers who are “seriously tax delinquent.”
(more…)

In 1989, Erol Ricketts, a researcher with the Rockefeller Foundation, found that between 1890 and 1950, blacks had higher marriage rates than whites, according to the U.S. Census. The report, titled “The Origin of Black Female-Headed Families,” published in the Spring/Summer issue of Focus(32-37), provides an overview that highlights an important question.

Ricketts observes that between 1960 and 1985, female-headed families grew from 20.6 to 43.7 percent of all black families, compared to growth from 8.4 to 12 percent for white families. The rates of marriage for both black and white women were lowest at the end of the 1800s and peaked in 1950 for blacks and 1960 for whites. Furthermore, according to Ricketts, “it is dramatically clear that black females married at higher rates than white females of native parentage until 1950.” National data covering “decennial years from 1890 to 1920 show that blacks out-married whites despite a consistent shortage of black males due to their higher rates of mortality. And in three of the four decennial years there was a higher proportion of currently married black men than white men.”

According to Ricketts, this data helps us to see that the Moynihan Report was wrong to intimate that slavery made marriage worse among blacks. In fact, the “legacy of slavery,” according to the data, does not explain the obliteration of marriage that we’ve seen in the black community over the past 30 years. It is clear from the data, observes Ricketts, that 1950 is a watershed year for black families as black female-headed families grow rapidly in concert with blacks becoming more urbanized than whites. Between 1930 and 1950 the rates of black female-headed families, regardless of geographical environment, are parallel to the corresponding rates for whites.
(more…)