More Errors from The New York Times on Michigan’s Charter Schools

Over the summer, The New York Times published an error-ridden piece on Michigan’s charter schools that it has yet to retract. Now, the NYT is doubling down with another piece adding new errors to old ones. The errors begin in the opening sentence:

Few disagreed that schools in Detroit were a mess: a chaotic mix of charters and traditional public schools, the worst-performing in the nation.

This is editorializing thinly veiled as “news.” In fact, lots of experts disagreed with that statement. The original NYT piece received a wave of criticism from national and local education policy experts, charter school organizations, and other journalists. As I explained at the time, the central premise of the NYT’s takedown on Detroit’s charter schools was an utter distortion of the research:

The piece claims that “half the charters perform only as well, or worse than, Detroit’s traditional public schools.” This is a distortion of the research from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO). Although the article actually cites this research – noting that it is “considered the gold standard of measurement by charter school supporters across the country” – it only does so to show that one particular charter chain in Detroit is low performing. (For the record, the “gold standard” is actually a random-assignment study. CREDO used a matching approach, which is more like a silver standard. But I digress.) The NYT article fails to mention that the same study found that “on average, charter students in Michigan gain an additional two months of learning in reading and math over their [traditional public school] counterparts. The charter students in Detroit gain over three months per year more than their counterparts at traditional public schools.”

As shown in this table from page 44 of the CREDO report, nearly half of Detroit’s charter schools outperformed the city’s traditional district schools in reading and math scores, while only one percent of charter schools performed worse in reading and only seven percent performed worse in math.

CREDO 2013 Michigan Charter School Study

84% of Americans Oppose Civil Asset Forfeiture

Eighty-four percent (84%) of Americans oppose civil asset forfeiture–police “taking a person’s money or property that is suspected to have been involved in a drug crime before the person is convicted of a crime,” according to a new Cato Institute/YouGov survey of 2,000 Americans. Only 16% think police ought to be allowed to seize property before a person is convicted.

Civil asset forfeiture is a process by which police officers seize a person’s property (e.g. their car, home, or cash) if they suspect the individual or property is involved with criminal activity. The individual does not need to be charged with, or convicted of, any crime for police to seize assets.[1] In most jurisdictions police departments may keep the property they seize or the proceeds from its sale. However, as these survey results demonstrate, most Americans oppose this practice.

Find the full public opinion report here

In instances when police departments seize people’s cars, houses, or cash, 76% of Americans say local departments should not be allowed to keep the assets. Instead, 48% say seized assets should go into the state general fund, while another 28% say assets should go into a dedicated state-level general law enforcement fund. 

Although Americans prefer policing be done by local (not state or federal) authorities, only 24% think local police departments should keep the assets they seize. [2] Americans may believe transferring seized assets to a state-level fund will reduce local departments’ material incentive to seize people’s property.

Opposition to civil asset forfeiture cuts across demographics and partisanship. Strong majorities of whites (84%), blacks (86%), Hispanics (80%), Democrats (86%), independents (87%), and Republicans (76%) all oppose. In fact, virtually every major group surveyed solidly rejects the practice and prefers property only be seized after a person is convicted of a crime. Even those highly favorable toward the police staunchly oppose (78%) civil asset forfeiture.

Few understand the concept of civil asset forfeiture. Yet, once the concept is explained to them in concrete terms the public overwhelmingly rejects the practice. Thus, reformers’ primary challenge is informing the public that this practice occurs. Policy reforms may follow broader public knowledge of civil forfeiture.

 

The Cato Institute/YouGov national survey of 2000 adults was conducted June 6-22, 2016 using a sample drawn from YouGov’s online panel, which is designed to be representative of the US population. YouGov uses a method called sample matching, and restrictions are put in place to ensure that only the people selected and contacted by YouGov are allowed to participate. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is +/-3.19 percentage points. The full report can be found here,  toplines results can be found here, full methodological details can be found here.

  


[1] The legal rationale is that the property itself may be involved in a crime, and thus must be seized. However in practice, since property can be seized without charging a person with a crime or convicting them, many innocent people have had their property taken from them without due process. See Marian R. Williams et al, “Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture,” Institute for Justice, March 2010, http://www.ij.org/images/pdf_folder/other_pubs/ assetforfeituretoemail.pdf; “Civil Asset Forfeiture: 7 Things You Should Know,” Heritage Foundation Factsheet no. 141, March 26, 2014, http://thf_media.s3.amazonaws.com/2014/pdf/FS_141.pdf.

[2] John Samples and Emily Ekins, “Public Attitudes toward Federalism: The Public’s Preference for Renewed Federalism,” Cato Institute Policy Analysis no. 759, September 23, 2014, http://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/public-attitudes-toward….

I’ll Take Unconstitutional Prosecutions for $1000, Alex

In 2011, federal authorities charged Calvin Walker, a Texas electrician, with 37 counts of fraud. Eighteen months later, Walker accepted a plea deal in exchange for all charges being dropped. That should have been the end of his legal saga. Yet two years later, Walker was again indicted for exactly the same alleged fraud, only this time by state authorities. He challenged this second prosecution as a violation of the Fifth Amendment, which guarantees that no person shall “be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb” for the same offense. But under a strange exception to the Double Jeopardy Clause created by the Supreme Court 60 years ago, both the state and federal governments are allowed to prosecute someone for the same act.

Cato has joined the Constitutional Accountability Center in filing a brief urging the Supreme Court to review of Walker’s case and overturn this misguided “dual sovereignty” exception. We make three principal arguments. First, none of the Framers would have contemplated such a large exception to Double Jeopardy protection. Even before the Founding, English jurist and legal theorist William Blackstone wrote that it was considered a “universal maxim of the common law of England, that no man is to be brought into jeopardy of his life, more than once, for the same offence.” And in congressional debates before the enactment of the Fifth Amendment, Rep. Roger Sherman observed that “the courts of justice would never think of trying and punishing twice for the same offence.”

Second, the practical magnitude of the dual-sovereignty exception is much greater today than it was 60 years ago. For most of our nation’s history, the federal government left most criminal matters to be handled by the states; there were relatively few offenses punishable by both authorities. But in recent decades, there has been “a stunning expansion of federal criminal jurisdiction into a field traditionally policed by state and local laws,” as Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in dissent in Evans v. United States (1992). Now that nearly every state crime has a federal analog, the dual-sovereignty exception risks entirely swallowing the Double Jeopardy rule.

Finally, the Supreme Court created the dual-sovereignty exception a decade before it held that the Double Jeopardy Clause fully applies to the states. Now that we know that it does, there’s no reason why a state prosecution shouldn’t “count” when a defendant objects to having been prosecuted twice. As Justice Hugo Black once put it, also in dissent, “If double punishment is what is feared, it hurts no less for two ‘Sovereigns’ to inflict it than for one.” Bartkus v. Illinois (1959). The Court should take this common-sense advice and put an end to the misguided dual-sovereignty exception, at least as it works in practice in modern times.

The Court will decide whether to take up Walker v. Texas early in the new year.

Bootleggers, Baptists, and Kratom

Kratom is a plant indigineous to Southeast Asia that, according to users, relieves pain more effectively—and with fewer side effects—than opioids. The FDA and the DEA have nevertheless proposed banning Kratom; see here for excellent background and discussion. One fact in particular caught my attention:

The U.S. government didn’t pay much attention to kratom until July 2013. That month, three advocacy groups sent a one-page letter to Daniel Fabricant, who was then the director of the FDA division that oversees the dietary supplement industry, which has annual revenues of $30 billion or more. The letter was co-signed by the heads of the United Natural Products Alliance, the Council for Responsible Nutrition, and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, organizations representing dietary supplement producers and marketers such as Herbalife, Bayer, and Pfizer—but not, notably, any kratom vendors. “Given the widespread availability of kratom,” the letter said, “the dietary supplement industry is concerned about the potential dangers to consumers who may believe that they are consuming a safe, regulated product when they are not.” The organizations asked the FDA to “deter further marketing of kratom under the mistaken belief that it is a legitimate product.”

In other words, the U.S. government responded to complaints from competitors—not from consumers—in initiating its investigation of kratom.

***

This is a recent Cato Daily Podcast on the DEA’s effort to ban Kratom, featuring Andrew Turner:

Venezuela Enters the Record Book, Officially Hyperinflates

Venezuela’s inflation has officially become the 57th official, verified episode of hyperinflation and been added to the Hanke-Krus World Hyperinflation Table, which is printed in the authoritative Routledge Handbook of Major Events in Economic History (2013). An episode of hyperinflation occurs when the monthly inflation rate exceeds 50 percent for 30 consecutive days. Venezuela’s monthly inflation rate first exceeded 50 percent on November 3rd and continues to do so, sitting at 131 percent as of December 11, 2016. The peak monthly inflation rate thus far was 221 percent, which is relatively low in the context of hyperinflations. This and more is documented in detail in the linked paper, which I co-authored with Charles Bushnell, titled “Venezuela Enters the Record Book: The 57th Entry in the Hanke-Krus World Hyperinflation Table,” newly published in the Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise Studies in Applied Economics working paper series.

The Hanke-Krus World Hyperinflation Table and a chart of Venezuela’s monthly inflation rate are reproduced below. Sources for the Hanke-Krus World Hyperinflation Table are at the bottom.

 

 

 

 

Sessions’ TPP Misconceptions

There are probably a wide range of reasons to object to Senator Jeff Sessions as President-elect Trump’s choice for Attorney-General. I’ll leave it to others to explain the concerns with Sessions in that role, but there is an issue with his understanding of trade agreements that I think is worth highlighting. Sessions has been repeating an objection to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that completely misunderstands the text of that agreement, and it is worth correcting the record.

The issue relates to the governance of the TPP. Sessions believes there will be a TPP Commission that acts as a supra-national governing entity and can override domestic laws. Here’s something he said last year: 

Among the TPP’s endless pages are rules for labor, environment, immigration and every aspect of global commerce – and a new international regulatory structure to promulgate, implement, and enforce these rules.  This new structure is known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Commission – a Pacific Union – which meets, appoints unelected bureaucrats, adopts rules, and changes the agreement after adoption.

The text of the TPP confirms our fears, plainly asserting: ‘The Parties hereby establish a Trans-Pacific Partnership Commission which shall meet at the level of Ministers or senior officials, as mutually determined by the Parties,’ and that ‘the Commission shall’:

  • ‘consider any matter relating to the implementation or operation of this Agreement’;
  • ‘consider any proposal to amend or modify this Agreement’;
  • ‘supervise the work of all committees and working groups established under this Agreement’;
  • ‘merge or dissolve any subsidiary bodies established under this Agreement in order to improve the functioning of this Agreement’;
  • ‘seek the advice of non-governmental persons or groups on any matter falling within the Commission’s functions’; and
  • ‘take such other action as the Parties may agree’.

Further, the text explains that ‘the Commission shall take into account’:

  • ‘the work of all committees, working groups and any other subsidiary bodies established under this Agreement’;
  • ‘relevant developments in international fora’; and
  • ‘input from non-governmental persons or groups of the Parties’.

This global governance authority is open-ended: ‘The Commission and any subsidiary body established under this Agreement may establish rules of procedures for the conduct of its work.’  It covers everything from the movement of foreign nationals: ‘No Party shall adopt or maintain…measures that impose limitations on the total number of natural persons that may be employed in a particular service sector… in the form of numerical quotas or the requirement of an economic needs test’; to climate regulation: ‘The Parties acknowledge that transition to a low emissions economy requires collective action.’

These 5,554 pages are like the Lilliputians binding down Gulliver.  They will enmesh our great country, and economy, in a global commission where bureaucrats from Brunei have the same vote as the United States.

At bottom, this is not a mere trade agreement.  It bears the hallmarks of a nascent European Union. … 

Topics:

65% of Americans Think Police Officers “Commonly” Racially Profile, but 63% Oppose the Practice

Sixty-five percent (65%) of Americans believe police regularly “stop motorists and pedestrians of certain racial or ethnic backgrounds because the officer believes that these groups are more likely than others to commit certain types of crimes.” However, 63% of Americans oppose police using racial profiling for traffic and pedestrian stops, according to a new Cato Institute/YouGov national survey of 2,000 Americans.

Find the full public opinion report here.

An overwhelming majority of African Americans (81%) believe the police regularly racially profile, as do a majority of Hispanics (70%) and Caucasians (62%). Democrats (80%) are considerably more likely than Republicans (53%) and independents (61%) to believe the police engage in racial profiling. Only respondents identified as ideologically conservative, according to our ideological typology, reach a majority (54%) who believe racial profiling does not commonly occur. In contrast, majorities of Liberals (87%), Communitarians (67%), and Libertarians (63%) think police routinely racially profile.

Most Americans Solidly Oppose Racial Profiling, but Slim Majority of Republicans Favor

Two-thirds (63%) of Americans oppose police officers “stopping motorists or pedestrians of certain racial or ethnic groups because the officer believes that these groups are more likely than others to commit certain types of crimes.” This percentage includes 34% who “strongly oppose” and 29% who “somewhat oppose” this practice. The remaining third (37%) support racial profiling, including 10% who “strongly support” and 26% who “somewhat support” it. 

Partisans see profiling differently. A slim majority (51%) of Republicans support racial profiling while nearly as many (49%) oppose. However, Black Republicans differ from their fellow partisans: 65% oppose racial profiling and 35% support it.[1] Hispanic Republicans also oppose by a margin of 57% to 43%. A strong majority (73%) of Democrats and independents (64%) oppose it while roughly 3 in 10 support its use.