Via Doug Bandow, here's an illustration of the depth of analysis we've come to expect from our Congress on foreign policy issues:
Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me.
Let's not wonder why we're in such a mess overseas. This tells you all you need to know. God help us.
While the U.S. House and Senate compete with each other to see who can authorize the longest wall along our border with Mexico, evidence continues to grow that the U.S. economy could use more foreign-born workers. Here are three examples from just the past few days:
The Washington Post reported this morning, in an article headlined, “Visas for skilled workers still frozen,” that the number of H1-B visas available each year remains capped at a number far below the ongoing needs of U.S. employers. As the article explains: “[M]any of the country's largest technology companies and most prestigious research laboratories have said they are unable to find enough U.S.-born scientists and similar workers to fill their openings. … But only 65,000 H-1B visas are issued each year, and demand has been so high recently that all of them are taken instantaneously.”
Earlier in the week, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Richard Fisher, noted in a speech in Monterrey, Mexico, that the U.S. economy has reached full employment and is beginning to feel the pinch of labor shortages in certain sectors. As Fisher told his audience:
I am hearing more and more reports about the difficulty of finding labor to work our oil fields or run our chemical plants. Bankers complain of a paucity of bank clerks and tellers. Truckers are experiencing a shortage of drivers. In Houston, we are hearing complaints about the difficulty of finding cashiers for retail establishments. A major hotelier told me last week that there is a shortage of housekeeping staff. ... companies are now voicing the kinds of complaints about labor shortages most often heard in a full employment economy.
Adding to the evidence, a major report released Wednesday on the need to modernize America’s agricultural policies included a recommendation that Congress enact comprehensive immigration reform. The report, by a task force appointed by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, noted, “Immigrants today play a vital role in nearly every aspect of our agricultural and food processing system, often taking jobs that are low-paying or shunned by native-born workers.” The report cited Hmong poultry producers in the Ozarks and Hispanic workers in the meat processing plants in the Midwest, calling such workers “vital to the [agricultural] sector’s competitiveness.”
As members of Congress seek to reform U.S. immigration law, they should keep in mind that our nation’s economy is made stronger and more dynamic when peaceful, hard-working people are allowed to come here legally to fill jobs that not enough Americans are willing or able to fill.
If you have children, they’re likely settling into their school-year routine at this point. But how much are they actually learning? The answer to that question depends heavily on your child’s teacher.
With so much riding on teacher selection, surely school administrators go out of their way to hire the best, right? Not so, I discovered! My new policy analysis, Giving Kids the Chaff: How to Find and Keep the Teachers We Need, reports that administrators seem to hire mediocre candidates even when standouts are waiting in the wings.
While many of the qualities of good teachers are difficult or impossible to measure – charisma and dedication comes to mind – studies reliably show that a teacher’s own academic aptitude and a strong math or science background can make a difference in his effectiveness. Nonetheless, aspiring teachers with top test scores are actually slightly less likely to be hired than their average counterparts. More surprising still, education majors are inexplicably hired more frequently than math and science majors despite a recognized shortage of highly-skilled teachers in those fields.
School choice reforms could put an end to the madness by creating incentives for principles to hire teachers who will satisfy parents. Finally: a way to separate wheat from chaff in the teaching profession.
A recent poll conducted by Monmouth University's Polling Institute on behalf of Excellent Education for Everyone (E3), showed that an overwhelming 74 percent of New Jersey residents support targeted education tax credits.
The support for tax credits is tremendous – you can’t find 74 percent support for apple pie – but it’s not all that surprising. Education tax credits consistently outpoll vouchers and have been the most successful school choice legislation in recent years. This new “blue” state poll adds to the mountain of evidence that people want school choice, and that education tax credits are the most promising way to get it.
The poll also found a solid majority, 54 percent, supports vouchers, although this is a significant drop from the 66 percent support found in a 2002 poll. Only 38 percent oppose vouchers. The level of support for vouchers is the same as it is for another popular reform, student-based funding, which determines funding for each student according to their need and allows that money to follow them. 54 percent of respondents support the proposal and 32 percent are opposed.
Maybe one more poll showing how big support for school choice really is will be enough to get politicians to stand up to the teachers' unions . . . ok, maybe not.
Today's Washington Post has this to say about the detainee bill that is working its way through the Congress:
Some of the fiercest debates focused on whether foreign terrorism suspects should have access to U.S. courts for challenging the legality of their detention, a right known as habeas corpus.
House Republicans blocked Democrats from offering amendments, including one that would have extended the habeas corpus right to detainees.
Cato Institute adjunct scholar Richard Epstein, criticized the proposals to curtail habeas corpus in this statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee a few days ago.
For additional background on the writ of habeas corpus, read this and this.
In yesterday's New York Times, David Leonhardt writes:
Mr. Wagoner’s argument has become the accepted wisdom about the [health care] crisis: the solution lies in restraining costs. Yet it’s wrong.
In fact, the solution does lie in restraining costs. Leonhardt is wrong because he conflates costs and spending.
Spending is the amount of money we devote to medical care. Costs are different. The money devoted to medical care represents a cost, because we give up the next-highest value use of that money (e.g., a skiing trip). But we also bear costs due to illness, including pain, limited mobility, and shortened lifespans. We spend money on medical care to reduce the total costs that we bear. Spending a lot of money on medical care is therefore desirable -- so long as the benefits (reduced pain, enhanced mobility, longer lifespan) exceed the costs for each increment of spending. The solution to every economic problem undeniably lies in restraining costs.
Leonhardt probably meant to shoot down the idea that the solution to America's health care crisis is in restraining spending. Indeed the thesis of his article seems to be that even though there are many wasteful medical expenditures, a lot of what America spends on health care is very worthwhile. But he repeatedly confuses the two concepts:
But the No. 1 cause of the cost increases is still the one you can see at the hospital and in your medicine cabinet — defibrillators, chemotherapy, cholesterol drugs, neonatal care and other treatments that are both expensive and effective.
But if those treatments are expensive and cost-effective, then they would reduce costs.
The confusion keeps Leonhardt from reaching the $64,000 question: How can we eliminate waste while preserving what works? Or to put it another way, How can we reduce spending without increasing costs?
The Baltimore Sun opinion page recognizes that the REAL ID Act's national ID system "will neither weed out terrorists nor make a dent in the flow of illegal immigration - the two problems it was devised to address." In light of the exorbitant cost and impossibility to implement, its advice is to junk the REAL ID Act.