Tag: Washington Post

Census Bureau Confirms: DC Spends $29,409 / pupil

Four years ago, I wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post revealing that DC spent nearly $25,000 per pupil during the 2007-08 school year. I calculated this figure from the public budget documents of the District of Columbia, which I subsequently summarized and linked on this blog.

No education reporter followed up on my findings, and much lower per pupil figures continue to be reported to this day. My $25,000 figure was even greeted with skepticism by analysts at free market think tanks. One state education policy analyst wrote to say that my figure was “out of line with credible information,” and that I gave my critics “too much ammunition with this clearly questionable set of statistics.”

Indeed, the Census Bureau figures for DC’s total K-12 expenditures were substantially lower than mine. I made a note to track down the discrepancy, but other projects intervened. When I updated my calculation to use DC budget estimates for the 2008-09 school year, I found that District spending had risen to over $28,000 / pupil. The comparable number for that year reported by the Bureau of the Census was just $18,181 (which you get by dividing the total expenditure figure in Table 1 by the enrollment figure in Table 15).

So you can see why most folks were skeptical. Skeptical, but wrong.

Back in March of this year I asked my then research intern to contact the Census Bureau and ask where they got their total spending data. It turns out, they got them from a DCPS official. We presented evidence to the Bureau that that DCPS official had missed a few line items when completing the Census Bureau’s forms—to the tune of about $400 million. The Census Bureau agreed and is in the process of obtaining corrected data for the 2008-09 year. In the meantime, they made sure to ask DC officials to include all relevant items when filling out their forms for the 2009-10 school year. The result: Census Bureau data now show DC spent a total of $29,409 per pupil (obtained by dividing total expenditures in Table 1 by enrollment in Table 15). This is just a bit higher than my calculation for the preceding year.

Kudos to the Census Bureau for taking the initiative and getting DC to accurately report its public school expenditures. Now that education reporters can simply open a Census Bureau .pdf file and divide one number by another, I wonder if any will report what DC really spends per pupil? I suspect that they still will not, continuing to mislead the general public, but I would be delighted to be proven wrong.

Oh, and, BTW, this spending figure is about triple what the DC voucher program spends per pupil—and the voucher students have a much higher graduation rate and perform as well or better academically.

 

Obamacare’s Unconstitutional—-Let’s Implement! No Wait, We’re Not Implementing—-Yes We Are!

The Washington Post reports:

For 14 months, a bipartisan group of 17 states has been quietly collaborating with the Obama administration to help build a foundation for the health-care reform law’s success.

The group includes some of the law’s staunchest supporters working alongside a handful of its bigger detractors. They are backed by $3 million in funding from eight nonprofit organizations that hope to see the Affordable Care Act succeed.

Together, they have come up with a tool to help consumers navigate the health insurance exchanges—the marketplaces that each state is required to have by 2014.

In other words, at the same time Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, and Kansas are suing to overturn Obamacare as unconstitutional, officials in those states are helping to implement the same unconstitutional law.

The Post reports, without rebuttal, several myths about the states’ role under Obamacare. It refers three times to the “tight deadlines” states face under the law. (There are no deadlines. HHS has said that if states decline to create exchanges, they can change their minds later.) It claims, “If a state does not have a framework in place by 2013, the Department of Health and Human Services will come in and do the job itself.” (That’s highly questionable. Obamacare appropriates zero funds for federal exchanges and HHS has admitted it doesn’t have the money.) It quotes Kansas insurance regulator Linda Shepphard as saying, “There is no work being done to build an exchange in Kansas at this point.” (Well, which is it? Is Kansas doing “no work,” or is it “collaborating with the Obama administration”?) I’d say certain state officials got some ‘splaining to do.

In the video below the jump, I explain to state officials why flatly refusing to create an Obamacare exchange is the best thing they can do for their states.

Osama’s Feckless Plot against Obama

In three recent colums for the Washington Post, David Ignatius reveals bits of two letters found in Osama bin Laden’s compound after the raid that killed him. One is a 48 page letter from bin Laden to Ilyas Kashmiri, a senior al Qaeda operative since killed in a drone strike. In the letter, bin Laden dispenses advice and dreams up potential terrorist acts, including a suggestion that al Qaeda teams shoot down planes carrying President Obama or General Petraeus, then the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Ignatius is doing some excellent reporting here, providing insight in bin Laden’s last days. But he inflates bin Laden’s stature, calling him a “terrorist CEO” and his feckless hope to kill Obama a “plot” that we should find “chilling.”

As I wrote in a letter published in Wednesday’s Post, Ignatius’s article reveals something closer to a fantasy than a “plot.” Ignatius notes that al Qaeda probably lacks the weapons to down standard military aircraft, let alone Air Force One. Additionally, it’s not clear that Kashmiri had the men to pull off the plan. We should not assume that he took these suggestions seriously rather than simply listening to bin Laden with strained patience, as with a cranky uncle. Perhaps the most absurd element of the letter is bin Laden’s political analysis. He argues that elevating Joe Biden to the presidency would somehow lead the U.S. into crisis rather than creating a massive rally-around-the-flag-effect.

This is a happy reminder of al Qaeda’s incompetence, not a chilling one. As John Mueller recently noted, the materials revealed about al Qaeda since bin Laden’s death are more evidence that the cunning, disciplined al Qaeda of popular imagination is a myth. Al Qaeda consists of disjointed groups of guys dodging drones and desperately trying to live up to their inflated reputation to terrorize. There is no true central command. That is clearly true today, and was likely the case even the al Qaeda’s 1990s heyday. That disorganization helps explain why most terrorism, even al Qaeda terrorism, is homegrown—mostly organized by small groups of people in the country where it occurs with little help from abroad. That gets you awful tragedies, as we saw this week in France, but hardly the apocalyptic nightmares we’ve been told to expect.

On April 13, Cato is holding a morning conference to explore homegrown terrorism, with one panel focusing on the United States and one on other western states. The panelists (including Mueller, Risa Brooks, Brian Jenkins, Glenn Carle, Michael Kenney and Mitchell Silber) will discuss, among other things, how al Qaeda’s lack of hierarchy affects its capacity to kill and terrorize. You can sign up here.

Cross-posted from the Skeptics at the National Interest.

Credit Where It’s Due: Sarah Kliff Edition

On Friday, President Obama announced an “accommodation” to those who object to his contraceptives mandate. Since then, I have been astonished at how many reporters have portrayed the president’s announcement as some sort of compromise, even though it would not reduce – not by one penny – the amount of money he would force Catholics and others with a religious objection to spend on contraception.

In fact, the only reporter who seemed to grasp this may also have been the first out of the box. The Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff:

“If a charity, hospital or another organization has an objection to the policy going forward, insurance companies will be required to reach out to directly offer contraceptive care free of charge,” one administration official explained…

Numerous studies have shown that covering contraceptives is revenue-neutral, as such preventive measures can lower the rate of pregnancies down the line…

“Contraceptives save a lot of money,” a senior administration official argued.

The catch here is that there’s a difference between “revenue neutral” and “free.” By one report’s measure, it costs about $21.40 to add birth control, IUDs and other contraceptives to an insurance plan. Those costs may be offset by a reduction in pregnancies. But unless drug manufacturers decide to start handing out free contraceptives, the money to buy them will have to come from somewhere.

Where will it come from, since neither employers nor employees will be paying for these contraceptives? That leaves the insurers, whose revenues come from the premiums that subscribers pay them. It’s difficult to see how insurance companies would avoid using premiums to cover the costs of contraceptives.

The Post’s subsequent coverage would have benefited from such scrutiny of the president’s spiel. If I missed such scrutiny in the Post or elsewhere, I hope someone will let me know.

‘The Dangerous Gym Membership’?

Here’s a poor, unsuccessful letter I sent to the editor of the Washington Post:

The dangerous gym membership” [Jan. 12] claims that in Medicare Advantage, “advertising a plan as the go-to health insurance source for marathoners could lure in a healthier subscriber base, disrupting the rest of the market place in the process.” Oh?

Does it disrupt the market for sneakers when running shops advertise themselves to marathoners? Since when does giving consumers something they want disrupt the market? That’s why markets exist.

What’s disrupting the market for seniors’ health insurance is government—in this case, Congress’ counter-productive attempt to cross-subsidize the sick via price controls that forbid carriers to consider each applicant’s risk when offering and pricing health insurance.

Cillizza on Cain and Know-Nothing Foreign Policy

Asked on Meet the Press this weekend whether the alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador was an act of war, Herman Cain gave the following response:

After I looked at all of the information provided by the intelligence community, the military, then I could make that decision.  I can’t make that decision because I’m not privy to all of that information… I’m not going to say it was an act of war based upon news reports, with all due respect.  I would hope that the president and all of his advisers are considering all of the factors in determining just how much, how much the Iranians participated in this.

That struck me as a refreshingly reasonable position. Yet the Washington Post’s election handicapper, Chris Cillizza, decided to make that quote the centerpiece of an article on Cain’s “know-nothing foreign policy.” He then presents a poll showing that Republicans don’t care much about foreign policy this year, only to conclude that foreign-policy ignorance could be a fatal handicap for Cain. His evidence for that conclusion is a quote from Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations, who specializes in arguing for wars and imperialism. Boot, as it happens, just wrote a blog post for Commentary titled, “Iran Plot Goes Straight to the Top,” where he attacks those willing to question the evidence against Iran’s leaders and vaguely supports attacking them.

Cillizza’s article makes clear that foreign-policy ignorance is far preferable to the Washington Post’s idea of expertise. The worst part is that Cain, who claims not to know what neoconservatives are, seems likely to become one, call Boot for advice, and win the Post’s respect.

Max Boot Grades Own Work, Gives Self ‘A’

Max Boot photo via UPI

Sunday’s Washington Post ran a piece about 9/11 called the “pundit scorecard,” and gave Max Boot the “wishful thinking award” for his “Case for American Empire” piece. As the Post article described:

Not since the bombing of Pearl Harbor destroyed American isolationism has a school of foreign policy thought been so discredited as neoconservatism was by the insurgency in Iraq. Yet in the first months after the 9/11 attacks, neoconservative plans to redesign the Middle East found a sympathetic hearing in the White House and among the commentariat. Probably the most romantic neocon was military analyst Max Boot, who believed that the world was desperate for American domination.

“Afghanistan and other troubled lands today cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets,” Boot wrote in the Weekly Standard on Oct. 15, 2001. Just as the U.S. war in Afghanistan was beginning, Boot was planning other campaigns. “Once we have deposed Saddam, we can impose an American-led, international regency in Baghdad, to go along with the one in Kabul. With American seriousness and credibility thus restored, we will enjoy fruitful cooperation from the region’s many opportunists, who will show a newfound eagerness to be helpful in our larger task of rolling up the international terror network that threatens us.”

Suffice it to say that Boot, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, isn’t happy. In fact, he looks back at the piece and feels pretty good about it. He points out that he had called on Washington to “feed the hungry, tend the sick, and impose the rule of law” in those benighted foreign locales, to at least “allow the people to get back on their feet until a responsible, humane, preferably democratic, government takes over.”

But let’s also recall that in May of 2003 Boot was still pooh-poohing Gen. Eric Shinseki’s admonition that “several hundred thousand” troops would be needed for such an endeavor. Instead, Boot thought that our to-do list in Iraq should include “purging the Baathists, providing humanitarian relief, starting to rebuild, and then setting up a process to produce a representative local government,” and that

This probably will not require the 200,000 troops suggested by Army chief of staff Eric Shinseki, but it will require a long-term commitment of at least 60,000 to 75,000 soldiers, the number estimated by Joint Staff planners.

Just think about that for a second. In 2003, Max Boot was arguing that 60-75,000 U.S. troops could provide security all across Iraq, while simultaneously “purging the Baathists, providing humanitarian relief, starting to rebuild, and then setting up a process to produce a representative local government.”

Grade inflation seems to have gotten out of hand at the Council on Foreign Relations.