The 2015 Acton Lecture Series continued on January 29th with a presentation by American Enterprise Institute President Arthur C. Brooks, who delivered a great talk on what really leads to happiness in life. In an era when Americans are finding less and less satisfaction with their nation while enjoying great abundance compared to much of the rest of the world and overall human history, what can we do to regain our confidence in the American enterprise system that has lifted much of the world out of poverty? Brooks explains, and you can hear his explanation via the video player below.
Head Start doesn’t work. More people than ever are now on food stamps. Medicaid is staggering under the weight of its own bloat. Why are we continuing to fund bad programs?
This is what Stephen M. Krason is asking. Such programs keep expanding:
There has been a sharp increase in the food-stamp and Children’s Health Insurance programs. Obama has proposed more federal funding for Head Start and pre-school education generally, job training for laid-off workers, and Medicaid. In fact, the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) has bloated the Medicaid rolls. He is even seeking free federally subsidized community college education. I have seen numbers ranging from 79 to 126 federal programs aimed at reducing poverty and an annual price tag of $668 to $927 billion.
The question is: are we getting our money’s worth? Krason says absolutely not. (more…)
It’s no secret that government entitlement programs have increased dramatically over the past few decades. It’s no secret that some would like to continue to expand such programs. And it’s no secret that America cannot afford to keep doing this, either economically or morally.
Nicholas Eberstadt tackles the issue of entitlement in “American exceptionalism and the entitlement state.” It’s a worthy read; I’d like to offer a few salient points.
Eberstadt begins by likening America to a transplant patient. The transplanted organ is healthy, but the patient is still really sick. America – the patient – has attempted to graft a foreign organ – the European welfare state. That transplanted organ is doing what it was designed to do, but it’s killing the patient nonetheless. (more…)
Resident Scholar at AEI and Georgetown University Professor Emeritus of Government, Walter Berns, passed away on January 10, 2015. Director of Istituto Acton, Kishore Jayabalan, recently reflected on his time in Bern’s classroom and how that greatly influenced him:
Simply put, I would not be where I am today if I hadn’t audited the last course he taught at Georgetown. Slogging away as an economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington, I dreamt of graduate school while taking Latin and Greek courses at the Department of Agriculture night school (who knew such things existed at taxpayer expense?), but I didn’t know what I wanted to study. On the advice of my friend John J. Miller, I called Mr. Berns, who immediately told me he was about to retire from teaching and would be of little help to me for future studies. I replied that I only wanted to audit his course, which he very graciously let me do.
In this American Enterprise Institute Vision Talk, Chancellor of DC Public Schools Kaya Henderson talks about the state of public education reform. She says we have the opportunity to change everything we’ve been doing wrong in education for the past 100 years, but we are failing at the task. How, she asks, do we consistently produce quality education for all children? Can it even be done?
It is interesting to note that one focal point of Henderson’s talk is community. Although she does not use the word, what she is talking about is the principle of subsidiarity – those closest to a problem or issue are bested suited to deal with it.
One holdover from 2014 into the new year is the cry for an increase in the minimum wage. President Obama pledged (in a December 2014 speech) to bump the minimum wage up to $9/hour nationally. Many believe that this move will help stimulate the still-sluggish economy.
Michael R. Strain, at the American Enterprise Institute, isn’t wholly against raising the minimum wage, but he’s not wholeheartedly for it, either. He thinks we are asking the wrong question. Do we need to raise the minimum wage, or do we need to increase employment?
The labor market for young and low-skill workers is in terrible shape. More than 14 percent of workers aged 16–24 are unemployed. The situation is even worse if you look only at teenagers, over 1 in 5 of whom are unemployed. The unemployment rate for high-school dropouts over the age of 24 is 10.8 percent — a two-decade high — and only 4 people out of every 10 in that group have jobs. And there are still a staggering 4.1 million unemployed workers who have been looking for a job for six months or longer, many of whom are young or low-skill. (more…)
I heard Fr. Robert Sirico say once that most of us now carry more technology in our pockets than it took to put a man on the moon in 1969. If you remember that, you’ll also remember when a radio was a substantial piece of furniture and having a color television made you a very popular kid in the neighborhood.
In the 1964 Sears Christmas catalog (if you don’t know what that is, ask your mother. Or your grandmother.), you could get a really swanky television console for $750. For that price today, you can head to your favorite electronics store and pick up six 24-inch flat screen televisions – one for every room in the house. AEI’s Mark J. Perry has a little fun comparing the Christmas of 1964 to 2014’s holiday, at least in terms in what the average family can get for their money. He adjusts for inflation for those console tvs:
The original prices are listed ($750 for the Sears Silvertone entertainment center and $800 for the more expensive one), and those prices are also shown converted to today’s 2014 dollars using the BLS Inflation Calculator: $5,700 for the basic 21-inch color TV model and $6,100 for the more expensive model.
The recent Rolling Stone debacle has brought to the forefront of national discussion a very serious issue: does America have a “rape culture” on college campuses? This is an important issue for a couple of reasons. First, no person, male or female, should ever fear or experience sexual assault, especially in a place they feel “at home,” such as a college campus. As a society, we have to do everything we can to make sure sexual assault never happens.
This brings us to the second issue. We cannot make our society safe if we are working with shoddy research and specious data. And that is what seems to be at the heart of the Rolling Stone story. Christina H. Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute explains how the notion of “rape culture” became seen as the norm, and why that is downright dangerous. Women (and men) deserve far better than anecdotes masquerading as science, and journalists who play fast and loose with facts.
Some feminists will tell you: it’s tough being a woman. We don’t have enough choices. We don’t get paid enough. There’s glass ceilings and sexist stereotypes. Women, arise and unite!
Maybe not. “Hysteria and hype,” says the American Enterprise Institute’s Christina Hoff Sommers. She examines radical feminism vs. truth. Guess which wins?
No one wants to be poor. No one enjoys figuring out how to stretch meals to last just three more days. No parent wants to tell their child they can’t play a sport or get a new backpack because there is simply no money. No one wants to be evicted. Poverty in America is a reality; so what are we going to do about it?
The American Enterprise Institute has a few ideas. They’ve taken a look at where we are 50 years after the War on Poverty was declared. The conclusion is that we’ve not been successful in that war. Poverty in America—and What to Do About It is a compilation of essays on the topic.
Aparna Mathur says the talk of late about “income inequality” is misleading. We must address poverty, not differences in individual income.
We are now in the fifth year of an economic recovery that does not seem like a recovery to most people in the labor market. There are more than 10 million unemployed workers, of which nearly 4 million have been jobless for longer than 27 weeks. In addition, there are another 10 million who are either in involuntary part-time jobs, or are too discouraged to look for work. Therefore, I would argue that the focus on income inequality is somewhat misplaced. This is essentially a problem of poverty.