After my last column on hydrofracking, I was asked to participate in a forum at the University of Rochester sponsored by Phi Beta Kappa. In my intro, I quipped that I was the guy invited to defend the despoiling of the earth and destruction of the climate. Nobody laughed.
This issue has stirred a level of religious fervor that is reminiscent of both sides of the abortion debate. Yet common to most consequential policy questions, the hydrofracking issue (like Oscar Wilde’s truth) is neither pure nor simple. I understand the appeal of clarity and simplicity—we would prefer that fracking be either boon or bane. Complexity makes our heads hurt.
Let me make the case for complexity. Read more »
Higher education is a major contributor to our region’s prosperity. Home to 18 colleges and universities, total employment in the sector rose steadily during the recession and totaled nearly 35,000 last year, up 16% since 2007.
Yet Rochester higher ed stands out for more than just job and payroll totals. The community is home to a number of distinctive institutions that set the region apart. One of these, the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) at the Rochester Institute for Technology, may be better recognized outside Rochester than inside. NTID is the world’s first and largest technological college for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Established by Congress in 1965, the first students entered in 1968.
A recent CGR study of NTID concluded that the Institute is responsible for more than 1,000 jobs, both direct and spillover, and over $50 million in labor income. Moreover, due to its national scope and reputation, it captured $84 million in outside funding (75% federal) over the 2006-11 period. NTID has done its part to strengthen higher ed in Rochester, boosting enrollment by 24% from 2007. Read more »
Workers cast adrift by technology. Last week we learned that the economy added 236,000 jobs in February. Better than a sharp stick in the eye, to be sure. But it still isn’t enough. Average job growth over the past six months has been about 190,000. At this rate, it will take the economy 5 years to absorb the increase in the ranks of the unemployed since 2007, plus new workers entering the labor force. And don’t forget the 8 million working part time who would prefer full time employment, 3.6 million more than in 2007.
How do we square persistently tepid job growth with the other big economic news of the week, that the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit new highs? Why can corporate profits be strong while employment growth remains weak? This brief essay will address only one of the many reasons: This recovery has simply left many workers behind. Read more »
In 1975, Marva Collins founded Westside Preparatory School in Chicago’s Garfield Park neighborhood, a place of persistent and concentrated poverty. Renamed Marva Collins Prep, the school targeted disadvantaged students, many of whom had been classified by the public school as learning disabled. She was able to spur them to achieve at levels comparable to students in high income neighborhoods. Collins’ success was profiled by CBS’s 60 Minutes in 1979 and became the subject of a movie in 1981 starring Cicely Tyson and Morgan Freeman.
This example (and others like it) proved that concentrated poverty, while predictive of low academic achievement, does not assure it. The Holy Grail of education reform has been the “pursuit of Marva Collins.” For many years, it appeared that you couldn’t replicate Marva Collins’ success without Marva Collins—i.e. someone who combined unusual gifts of charisma, dedication and energy with exceptional teaching and leadership ability. Read more »
On Jan. 3, the Gannett News Service Albany Bureau reported on a draft environmental impact statement from 2012 on high-volume hydrofracking (http://goo.gl/F2bjy). The state Department of Environmental Conservation assessment concludes that “by implementing the proposed mitigation measures identified and required in this (report), the department expects that human chemical exposures during normal HVHF operations will be prevented or reduced below levels of significant health concern. Thus adverse impacts on human health are not expected from routine HVHF operations. When spills or accidents occur, the department has identified numerous additional mitigation measures … so that significant exposures to people and resources on which they rely are unlikely.”
DEC officials told Gannett that these findings were preliminary and did not constitute “final DEC policy.” Fair enough-this is a draft.
Yet these findings are consistent with the text of a briefing paper on high-volume hydrofracking from the Environmental Defense Fund, which concludes: “In short, natural gas could be a win-win benefiting both the economy and the environment-if we do it the right way. The right way means putting tough rules and mandatory environmental safeguards in place that protect communities and reduce methane pollution.” See http://goo.gl/NbiUP. Read more »
The 1983 publication of A Nation at Risk underscored the gap in educational outcomes between the nation’s disadvantaged and the rest of society, while challenging the nation’s confidence in the entire K-12 educational system by unfavorable international comparisons. We have made little progress in closing either the gap between America’s rich and poor, or the gap between our students and those of other nations.
Since 1983, we’ve been looking for a quick fix solution, the one Big Thing that would close these gaps. This is ultimately fruitless. Rochester City School District Superintendent Bolgen Vargas seems to have taken this lesson to heart. As noted in a recent City Newspaper interview, he studiously avoids the temptation to predict speedy, miraculous success by imposing bold new policies bundled up with a clever name. Read more »
Several proposals to dissolve village boundaries were on the ballot last week. Voters in the villages of Malone (Franklin County) and Chaumont (Jefferson County), both rejected the idea. The Village of Lyons (Wayne County) embraced it, although by a very narrow margin (and absentee ballots, when counted, could change the vote).
Most village dissolution votes fail to gain the support of voters, putting Malone and Chaumont with the majority. Should these voters have chosen to dissolve these villages? Not being a resident of either community, we at CGR don’t have a voice in the decision. In fact, having studied the issue in both, we can make a case on either side. Our role is to lay out the facts to the best of our ability—informing the voters and empowering them to make their own decisions.
At issue in these votes is a possible loss of identity, and some loss of local control—the power to enact laws and to provide village residents with the services they alone vote to support. Village residents remain voters and taxpayers in the surrounding town and will look to their town for a continuation of needed public services. In exchange for giving up some autonomy, residents expect a smaller tax bill. Read more »
In 1940, fewer than one in twenty Americans had a college degree. Now it’s better than one in four. Fueled by a flood of American soldiers returning from WWII’s European and Pacific theaters, the GI Bill sparked an explosion in college enrollment that continues to this day.
Higher education boosts productivity and pay. The earnings gap between those with and those without a college degree is dramatic. According to the Census, individuals 25 or older with bachelor’s degrees earned nearly $22,000 per year (80%) more than those with only a high school diploma.
But what does college cost?
College pricing rivals health care in opacity—most students receive some form of “aid.” Just as in buying a car, few pay the “manufacturer’s suggested retail price.” Bloomberg Businessweek reports that 94% of students in NYS private colleges & universities receive some form of financial aid. Even in public colleges, two-thirds receive aid (in addition to the outright state support to the institution).
The College Board conducts an annual survey and reports that published tuition grew 52% from 96-97 to 11-12 while tuition net of aid (including federal tax credits) rose 22% over the period, suggesting that colleges and universities are increasing the “sticker price” at the same time that aid is also rising. Using the College Board’s figures on net tuition and fees, students beginning four year degrees in 2011 will pay an average of $52,000 in tuition over four years in private schools and about $10,000 in public schools. Many pay more and many pay less, of course. Consider, too, the cost of room and board—another $35-40,000—and foregone earnings. Read more »
Health care is different from other goods and services.
- As a wealthy society, we aren’t willing to limit access to care based on ability to pay (at least entirely).
- Caveat emptor—let the buyer beware—fails in the face of complexity: The patient (the “buyer”) is often incapable of understanding what is appropriate or necessary and must rely on the provider (the “seller”) for essential advice.
- The pace of technological change outstrips our capacity to set limits on what constitutes adequate care.
- Public policy, operating through payment schema and regulation, is a blunt instrument, influencing the marketplace in both intended and unintended ways. Read more »
Our nation’s fiscal house is held together with duct tape and Crazy Glue. The porch roof is teetering—left unrepaired, it may collapse onto our economy at the end of the year. And our home’s foundation has a crack in it. While this structural gap between revenue and spending—largely caused by Baby Boom retirements—won’t be dramatically worse next year, the crack will get larger and larger until we make major repairs.
A wide array of tax cuts are due to expire at the end of 2012. As the Bush White House couldn’t muster the 60 votes required for a permanent tax change, the 2001 tax cuts were passed using the Senate’s arcane “reconciliation” procedure, which forced a 10 year “sunset” provision. (The vote was 50-50 with Vice President Dick Cheney casting the tie-breaker.) Unable to reach consensus on much of anything in 2010, the President & Congress kicked the can down the road another 2 years. In February, the 2 percentage point reduction in the payroll tax rate originally passed in 2010 was extended to the end of the year.
So, what happens if Congress & the President don’t do a deal? Read more »