Archive

February 11th, 2016

What the Web puts at risk for colleges: Prestige

    It happened to newspapers. It happened to magazines. It happened to books. Now it's happening to higher education: another industry thrown into turmoil and shock because its business model has been overturned by the Internet.

    Fifteen or 20 years ago, the newspaper industry was just awakening to the implications of moving online. At first, those implications seemed miraculous. Newspapers were already more or less monopolies in all but a half-dozen U.S. cities. Now, some of their biggest expenses - for printing, for delivery, for the paper itself - were about to disappear.

    But as newspapers put their content online, the industry changed virtually overnight from a collection of separate geographical monopolies into one giant competitive market in which every English-language outlet competed with all the others in the entire world.

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Ted Cruz Won’t Be Denied

    Another Ted Cruz rally, another Ted Cruz rant about the media’s failure to give him his due. I endured one in the tiny town of Weare, New Hampshire, on Thursday afternoon and had two thoughts.

    The first was that I’d seldom heard a voice as ripe with self-regard — as juicy with it — as his. He’s pomposity’s plum tomato.

    The second thought was that he’s right.

    We’ve sold him short. We continue to underestimate him. He’s even craftier than we appreciated. He’s more devious than we realized.

    And he has a better chance to win the Republican nomination than we want to admit, because he’s not just a preternaturally slick political animal. He’s an uncommonly lucky one.

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Taking the true measure of economic inequality

    Inequality and what to do about it figure prominently in political debate in the U.S. and Europe. A clearer view of the problem and the possible remedies would be valuable -- and a new study by Alan Auerbach, Laurence Kotlikoff and Darryl Kohler helps. It shows the hazards of jumping to conclusions about inequality, and also highlights some pernicious effects of America's convoluted tax-and-benefit system.

    The study begins by noting that inequality in lifetime spending power is more important than inequality in current incomes and wealth, the usual measures. Incomes and wealth change a lot over the course of a life. Momentary snapshots of the kind provided by the standard estimates are misleading.

    A new graduate just starting out isn't poor in the way that a high-school drop-out is poor, though their current incomes may be the same. So while figures for wealth suggest that a retired person with meager savings is richer than a new Harvard graduate with student debt, common sense says otherwise.

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February 10th

The Things We Love to Loathe

    When it comes to bringing us all together, I don’t think anybody is better at it than Martin Shkreli.

    Shkreli is a 32-year-old former hedge fund manager — see, I just said “hedge fund manager” and already masses of readers are shuddering in unison. He’s the one who bought rights to a drug needed for HIV patients and then hiked the price 5,000 percent. He later appeared, wearing a hoodie, before a Forbes Healthcare Summit to say his only regret was that he had not raised it higher.

    Yes! That guy! Naturally, all this drew a lot of congressional critics, and Shkreli expressed a yen for an honest exchange of opinions. (“I would berate them. I would insult them.”) He got his chance this week when he was called before the House oversight committee, where he took the Fifth, while smirking and twiddling a pencil.

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Money in politics: Clinton and Sanders both have it wrong

    The role of money in politics is neither as crude as Bernie Sanders suggests, nor as benign -- at least when it comes to herself -- as Hillary Clinton would have you think.

     Sanders presents a mechanistic view of the impact of campaign donors: contributions in, results out. Thus, in Sanders' view, Hillary Clinton, and the money she scoops up, offers a disturbing illustration of a larger problem.

    "What being part of the establishment is, is in the last quarter having a superPAC that raised $15 million from Wall Street, that throughout one's life raised a whole lot of money from the drug companies and other special interests," Sanders said in Thursday's debate.

     "To my mind, if we do not get a handle on money in politics and the degree to which big money controls the political process in this country, nobody is going to bring about the changes that [are] needed in this country for the middle class and working families."

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In media coverage of Chelsea Clinton, the kid gloves are still on

    Politico's Jack Shafer wrote on Friday that it is "time for Chelsea Clinton's easy ride to end." The former - and perhaps future - first daughter turns 36 this month, is vice chair of the Clinton Foundation and a board member of IAC, and is active in her mother's White House campaign. She's not a kid anymore. And she's most definitely a public figure.

    Yet the media still handle her with kid gloves. Here's how Shafer put it:

    "When precisely did Chelsea Clinton complete her transition from a White House kid whom journalists agreed to treat as off-limits to a public figure deserving of the full scrutiny of the press corps?

    "The unsettling answer to the question appears to be, "Not yet." The soon-to-be 36-year-old occupies the status of an American princess - Diana on the Potomac, if you will. The press covers her, of course, attempting to ask her substantive question, but mostly she exists to grace the covers of magazines - Fast Company and Elle most recently - and be treated to lighter-than-air puff pieces. . . .

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In media coverage of Chelsea Clinton, the kid gloves are still on

    Politico's Jack Shafer wrote on Friday that it is "time for Chelsea Clinton's easy ride to end." The former - and perhaps future - first daughter turns 36 this month, is vice chair of the Clinton Foundation and a board member of IAC, and is active in her mother's White House campaign. She's not a kid anymore. And she's most definitely a public figure.

    Yet the media still handle her with kid gloves. Here's how Shafer put it:

    "When precisely did Chelsea Clinton complete her transition from a White House kid whom journalists agreed to treat as off-limits to a public figure deserving of the full scrutiny of the press corps?

    "The unsettling answer to the question appears to be, "Not yet." The soon-to-be 36-year-old occupies the status of an American princess - Diana on the Potomac, if you will. The press covers her, of course, attempting to ask her substantive question, but mostly she exists to grace the covers of magazines - Fast Company and Elle most recently - and be treated to lighter-than-air puff pieces. . . .

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Hillary Battles Bernie Sanders, Chick Magnet

    Hillary Clinton first grabbed the national spotlight 47 years ago as an idealistic young feminist, chiding the paternalistic establishment in her Wellesley commencement speech.

    So it’s passing strange to watch her here, getting rebuffed by young women who believe that she lacks idealism, that she overplays her feminist hand and that she is the paternalistic establishment.

    Bernie Sanders may be a dead ringer for Larry David, but Hillary is running the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” campaign. She can’t fire up young voters by dwelling on what can’t be done in Washington and by explaining that she’s more prose than poetry.

    She’s traveling around New Hampshire with a former president who could easily layer in some poetry, and a handful of specific snappy plans for the future, to her thicket of substance and stack of white papers. But somehow, Hill and Bill campaign side by side without achieving synergy.

    Is it that he’s as tired as he looks or does she feel too competitive with him to ask for that kind of help?

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America Is Flint

    We have been rightfully outraged by the lead poisoning of children in Flint, Michigan — an outrage that one health expert called “state-sponsored child abuse.”

    But lead poisoning goes far beyond Flint, and in many parts of America seems to be even worse.

    “Lead in Flint is the tip of the iceberg,” notes Dr. Richard J. Jackson, former director of the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Flint is a teachable moment for America.”

    In Flint, 4.9 percent of children tested for lead turned out to have elevated levels. That’s inexcusable. But in 2014 in New York state outside of New York City, the figure was 6.7 percent. In Pennsylvania, 8.5 percent. On the west side of Detroit, one-fifth of the children tested in 2014 had lead poisoning. In Iowa for 2012, the most recent year available, an astonishing 32 percent of children tested had elevated lead levels. (I calculated most of these numbers from CDC data.)

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Who had the worst week in Washington? Donald Trump

    Ever since Donald Trump rode his white-hot rhetoric on immigration to the top of the Republican presidential field, one question has lingered: When voters went to, you know, vote, would they have second thoughts about supporting the Donald?

    The early returns suggest that the answer is yes. In the run-up to Monday's Iowa caucuses, polling - including the almost-always-right survey conducted by Ann Selzer for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics - suggested that Trump was poised to win.

    It didn't turn out that way. Instead Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas whom Trump had systematically worked to savage in the final weeks before the caucuses, rolled to victory on the strength of his very un-Trumpian focus on building a grass-roots turnout organization. Trump held on for second, but barely, as establishment favorite Marco Rubio nipped at his heels.

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