Archive for July 19th, 2010

A writer for the Atlantic (or perhaps an editor in charge of headlines) is so clueless about world affairs that he lists America as one of the world’s most-authoritarian nations. As someone who is constantly criticizing government, I certainly have no objection to strong rhetoric when describing the misguided policies of the federal government. But I also like to put everything in context and recognize that the United States is still one of the best places for people who value freedom. That may be damning with faint praise, but relative rankings matter. And so when someone at the Atlantic asserts that we are more authoritarian than Libya, Russia, Venezuela, and Cambodia, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

The fundamental problem with the article is that it uses some maps put together by Esquire that simply show nations that impose the death penalty and nations that allows gays to serve in the military. It is quite reasonable to argue that the United States has the wrong approach on those issues. To argue that the American position on those two issues someone makes us worse than 178 other countries is borderline nuts. The Atlantic writer basically acknowledges that point in the article, which brings us back to who was in charge of the headline?

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Kudos to the New York Times for actually looking at the evidence and publishing a story exposing the costly failure of job-training programs financed by the federal government. I also couldn’t help but note that the Obama Administration is claiming that the programs are a success. Not because lots of people are getting jobs, but because many more people are signed up for the program. That kind of upside-down thinking is typical of Washington, where success is defined by the number of people lured into government dependency.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans have enrolled in federally financed training programs in recent years, only to remain out of work. That has intensified skepticism about training as a cure for unemployment. Even before the recession created the bleakest job market in more than a quarter-century, job training was already producing disappointing results. A study conducted for the Labor Department tracking the experience of 160,000 laid-off workers in 12 states from mid-2003 to mid-2005 — a time of economic expansion — found that those who went through training wound up earning little more than those who did not, even three and four years later. “Over all, it appears possible that ultimate gains from participation are small or nonexistent,” the study concluded. …Labor economists and work force development experts say the frustration that frequently results from job training reflects the dubious quality of many programs. Most last only a few months, providing general skills without conferring useful credentials in specialized fields. Programs rarely involve potential employers and are typically too modest to enable cast-off workers to begin new careers. Most job training is financed through the federal Workforce Investment Act, which was written in 1998 — a time when hiring was extraordinarily robust. …The Obama administration argues that expanded job training has already delivered success. …Last year, the number of laid-off workers in job training reached 241,000, up from about 124,000 the year before, according to the Labor Department. …Experts harbor doubts about the reliability of Labor Department numbers, which are derived from reports by state agencies that collect data from community colleges and employment offices whose training funds are dependent upon reaching benchmarks. Twice the Labor Department had to correct the data it supplied for this article.

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The fact that government is growing is not big news. The fact that bureaucrats are overpaid is hardly a big revelation. But it is interesting that a DC-based newspaper like Politico has a story about how Washington is prospering while the rest of the country is suffering. Too bad they didn’t connect the dots and explain that the rest of the country is hurting BECAUSE Washington is thriving.

America is struggling with a sputtering economy and high unemployment — but times are booming for Washington’s governing class. The massive expansion of government under President Barack Obama has basically guaranteed a robust job market for policy professionals, regulators and contractors for years to come. The housing market, boosted by the large number of high-income earners in the area, many working in politics and government, is easily outpacing the markets in most of the country. And there are few signs of economic distress in hotels, restaurants or stores in the D.C. metro area. As a result, there is a yawning gap between the American people and D.C.’s powerful when it comes to their economic reality — and their economic perceptions. A new POLITICO poll, conducted by market research and consulting firm Penn Schoen Berland, underscores the big divide: Roughly 45 percent of “Washington elites” said the country and the economy are headed in the right direction, while roughly 25 percent of the general population said they felt that way.

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