SPEAKING of business, if a salesman starts spinning a line of earnest, transparent horseshit like the following, how many seconds before you figure it's a scam? a) Twenty b) Ten c) If he simpers and smirks like David Brooks? Soon as I see him coming.
(By the way, the real title of this thing is "Après Rahm, Le Déluge". We don't presume that Brooks writes his own headlines. But who did? This is either a) an historical reference the person using it did not understand or b) an historical reference the reader was not supposed to get, but was nevertheless expected to translate from the French. Either way, Th' fuck?)
Modern nations have two economies, which exist side by side. Economy I is the tradable sector. This includes companies that make goods like planes, steel and pharmaceuticals. These companies face intense global competition and are compelled to constantly innovate and streamline. They’ve spent the last few decades figuring out ways to make more products with fewer workers.
This being on the World Wide Web an' all, I'm sure there's someone out there noting how often David Brooks' Universal Dichotomies turn out to be Fiduciary Republican talking points vs. how often they turn out to be, y'know, actual dichotomies or somethin'.
Economy II is made up of organizations that do not face such intense global competition. They often fall into government-dominated sectors like health care, education, prisons and homeland security. People in this economy believe in innovation, but they don’t have the sword of Damocles hanging over them so they don’t pursue unpleasant streamlining as rigorously. As a result, Economy II institutions tend to get bloated and inefficient as time goes by.
Bloated inefficiency vs. intense competition and constant innovation. And "such as" vs. "often fall". Gee, I guess I didn't realize it was such a no-brainer. I mean, literally.
For example, between 1960 and 2006, health care spending increased twice as fast as G.D.P., but there were no comparable gains in health outcomes. A study by the Institute of Medicine estimates that 30 cents of every $1 spent on health care is wasted — about $750 billion a year.
Okay, so let's forget the clumsy slight of hand here which turned American health care from private enterprise to government-run operation. There's been "no comparable gains in health outcomes" in forty-five years? Average life expectancy for the general population is up by eight years. It's up by nine for African-Americans since 1970. A heart attack went from 75% survivable to 96% survivable. Organ transplants went from experimental to common. You can get procedures as an outpatient now that would have laid you up for weeks then.
The only excuse for saying something like this is to win an argument by misdirection. Something that is still worth exactly what it was in 1960.
Over the past 50 years, spending on K-12 education has also skyrocketed. In 1960, Americans spent roughly $2,800 per student, in today’s dollars. Now we spend roughly $11,000 per student. This spending binge has not produced comparable gains in student outcomes. Education productivity is down, too.
Assuming, arguendo, that there was some way to qualitatively compare an education in 1960 with one today, and there isn't, the fact is that we don't have it. It's a completely bogus statement. If comparing test scores would do it, and it won't, the fact is that we have no such test. The closest thing we have is the NAEP, which dates to about 1970. And while there's still a considerable methodological challenge in comparing scores over forty years, for whatever it's worth the NAEP shows American education improving over that period, and improving considerably for African-Americans, the general, if usually unspoken, targets of "educational" "reform".
Of the dollars argument, which can only impress someone who's impressed by basic arithmetic, and thus probably unqualified to judge educational practices, may I just mention that I actually attended public school in 1960? That the cost to educate me then was the sum total cost of fat pencils, lined paper, Dick and Jane readers, addition and subtraction flashcards, and construction paper? They expected us to do all that learning without a single computer. Practically child abuse. 'Course they had built us a new school building, courtesy a thing called "taxes" they collected in those days from "citizens". Nowadays that money goes to keeping seventy-year-old buildings from collapsing. At least in the Indianapolis public school system, which last built a new high school in 1964. It's a little different in the suburbs.
Not to mention, of course, things like school lunches, guaranteed special education, and non-English speaker programs, the sort of things "reformers" ought to champion, but somehow never do.
If Economy I is great at generating output without generating employment, Economy II is great at generating employment without generating output.
Well, I'll grant you this: over the past fifty years the American educational system has not generated the sort of informed reader who demands things like "evidence" or "critical thinking skills" from his Op-Ed columnist.
But let's just keep our methodology constant, shall we? Has "Economy I" been "great" at generating output? If we can blithely make illusory comparisons to an educational system in the days when Plate Tectonics was sneered at, then we can compare outputs between the old analogue, metal age and our digital, plastic one. Whose watches would you rather own? Whose cars would you rather work on? Whose clothes were better made, whose appliances built to last? Whose burger would you rather pop down to the corner and eat? If your life depended on a single phone call getting through, would you choose Ma Bell or AT&T?
The point--it shouldn't need to be spelled out, Dave, but apparently it is, at least to you--is that "technological innovation" is not a measure of "improvement". "The trading economy is great at generating output" is a tautology. That's what it exists for. Much of that output is just shit being churned for the sake of a dollar. And that's not a proven benefit. Not for anyone who doesn't get the dollar, at least.
By Thursday night, this strike seemed to be heading toward a resolution. Both sides are giving ground, but, as best as I can tell, Emanuel has successfully preserved the core of his reform agenda. There will be longer school days and a longer school year. A child who begins in the Chicago school system in kindergarten and goes all the way through high school will have an extra two-and-a-half years of learning time. That’s huge. There will also be no caps on parental choice. As more charters and different types of public schools are created, parents will have an array of options for their children.
Phones will be smaller! Bluebirds will sing! Shit will still float!
Call me when it happens. Hell, call me when you've figured out an honest way to measure whether it happens, and how to go back, dig up Rahm Emanuel, and kill him again if it doesn't.
Emanuel’s willingness to hang tough and accept a strike was itself a hopeful sign that some Democrats are hardy enough to take on interests aligned with their own party. Emanuel certainly didn’t get everything he wanted. The unions won concessions, too. But if the final results resemble what I’ve been hearing in any way, then Chicago will move toward the forefront of the reform movement. That result would also be a national credibility booster for Emanuel’s party. It would be a sign that Democrats may be able to successfully reform ailing public institutions, so that the nation as a whole can prosper.
All those people behind all the great creative innovation and constant streamlining of Economy I? Where were they educated, again?