Let's start with the positive: There are PreK programs that work with evidence from rigorous evaluations supporting this assertion. To wit:
  • North Carolina's Abecedarian Program (AP) conducted in the 1970s found significant gains for the preschoolers up to the age of 21. AP was an intensive program providing children with 40 hours/week of education and care for 50 weeks.
  • Michigan's Perry Preschool Program (PPP) produced positive economic outcomes and low crime rates for participants. PPP consisted of  2 years of preschool, weekly parent-teacher home visits, and child-teacher ratios of 5-6:1.

Wonderful for those children! But neither AP nor PPP are like the universal PreK programs President Obama and his minions over at the U.S. Department of Education are pushing and  are expected to cost $50B.

According to a Cato Institute reportstudies inquiring into the value of preschool programs are not providing data to support the Administration's rhetoric. PreK studies generally indicate few gains for attendees and any gains that might have accrued to students in the PreK classes are very short-term in nature. For example:
  • The Head Start Impact Study: Assessed 4.5k Head Start students through the 3rd grade. Although statistically significant (though modest) effects were found among students during the PreK year, the positive impact did not last beyond kindergarten.
  • Tennessee's Voluntary Pre-K Program: The statistically significant gains that 3k Pre-K students achieved diminished greatly by the end of kindergarten and disappeared entirely by 1st grade. The only statistically significant difference between participants and nonparticipants at the end of the first grade favored the control group, not students  who participated in the PreK program.

Other studies find longer-term benefits but oftentimes utilize flawed methodologies, including failing to take into account children that dropped out of the programs and therefore positively biased the results. For example:
  • One highly-touted, allegedly high-quality Pre-K program (Tulsa, Oklahoma's) results did not account for the the high number of dropouts in the program.

Before falling for the rhetoric and wasting more public education $$$s "for the children," voters should demand honest research identifying whether federal spending and, in this instance, another $50B for universal PreK, warrants the expenditure.

Based soley on the evidence, it's pretty clear that universal PreK isn't "for the children." No, it's another form of crony socialism that represents nothing more than a big-time payoff to the public school teachers' unions and their bosses.

Let the discussion begin...

To read the Cato Institute report, click on the following link:
"The Evidence on Universal Preschool."

Paul Rosenberg published a post yesterday that's well worth considering, as the mid-term election season is upon us. Complain about the politicians as many do, the simple fact is...well, the simple fact. It's up to the voters to stop blaming the politicians for delivering what the voters really want.

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with Paul Rosenberg | October 24, 2014

Sympathy for the Devil… Or at Least for a Politician

Last Thursday didn’t begin pleasantly; I had to attend the funeral of an old friend. But the day did at least turn interesting when I saw a mutual acquaintance at the funeral service: a man who ended up as a long-term congressman. This guy was from the West Coast and didn’t know anyone in the church except me, so we sat together. After the ceremony, I offered to give him a ride back to his hotel.

As we drove, the congressman, spurred by thoughts of life, death, and meaning, opened up and began talking from his heart, not from behind the usual “politician” screen. I suggested that we stop at Jay’s Bar, which had been my old cypherpunk hangout in the ‘90s. Robert (the congressman) agreed. We found a quiet spot (it was midday and the bar was nearly empty) and asked Jaime, the daytime bartender, to get us a couple of sandwiches from the Italian place next door.

Robert and I talked for a couple of hours, and I have to admit that I’ve never before felt the level of sympathy for a politician that I did for him. I knew he had started as a “Goldwater kid” back in the ‘60s, and our mutual friend (the deceased) had assured me that Robert went to Washington with the very best of intentions, wanting to make life in America better. But as we talked, I could see that Robert was worn out and dejected by his life in Washington.

After our sandwiches and a drink or two, Robert made a comment about his constituents not really wanting him to fix things. I might normally have interpreted that as some kind of excuse, but he seemed especially open at that moment, so I asked him what he meant. He sighed and told me a story…

Several years ago, he and some other congressmen realized that it wouldn’t be easy, but they had an opportunity to actually deliver on most of the things they had campaigned for so many times. (Reduced government meddling in people’s lives, primarily.) So Robert set up a meeting with his core constituents and explained the plan to them.

These were all donors, by the way, and fairly well off at a minimum.

The plan was that they would make their demands, knowing that their political adversaries couldn’t defeat them, but that they could create a lot of pain before they gave in. So Robert told his donors this:

We can get almost everything we want in the next session of Congress, but the other side will make a massive fight over it. So, what I want to know from you is this: if the price of this is that you miss your Social Security checks for a month or two, will you stand with me?

Then Robert stopped talking and lowered his gaze to his beer.

“And?” I asked.

He looked up at me sadly and said, “None of them raised their hand to agree. Not one.”

“But these were all people with money, Robert; a couple of delayed checks couldn’t hurt them very much.”

“Yeah,” he said. “That’s what I thought. But not one of them would pay even a small price to get what they said they wanted.”

“Damn, I’m sorry.” He nodded in a sort of mournful “thank you” and went back to work on his beer.

As we sat quietly for a few minutes, I heard an old Sheryl Crow song playing on the radio. The lyrics I noticed were these:

         Lie to me,
             I promise, I’ll believe.
         Lie to me,
             But please don’t leave.

That brought me to another subject, but I was hesitant to bring it up. Politician or not, this man was feeling a lot of sadness and I didn’t want to pile on. But he always was a tough guy, and he got there himself.

“You know what that means, don’t you, Paul?”

“Yeah, I do, Robert. It means that no matter what they say, they don’t really want freedom… they’re not willing to suffer for it. All their slogans are just brave-sounding words.”

He nodded his head.

“And it means something else,” he said.

I was pretty sure that I knew what he meant. “You mean they need politicians, so that there’s always someone to blame?”

“That's exactly what I mean,” he said.

Like I say, it’s not often that I feel sorry for a politician, but on this occasion I had to. This man had started with good intentions. And regardless of how badly Washington had let him down (which it had, in spades), what really pierced his heart was learning that his voters didn’t really want what they said they wanted. That made everything he had done in DC almost meaningless. It’s tough to watch that kind of realization spreading over the face of a guy you know.

I ended up giving Robert a ride back to his hotel and thanked him for coming all the way to our friend’s funeral. And I still felt sorry for him as I made my way back home. Realizing that several decades of your life were mostly for naught has to be an awfully rough thing.

And politicians really do serve as “icons of blame” for a huge number of people. Regardless of which political party you love or hate, there’s always someone to blame for your troubles: The Blues are ruining the world, the Reds are ruining the world, the “establishment” is ruining the world, and so on, without end.

The truth of the matter is that the productive people of the world—those of us who create and supply products and services—have the ultimate say over what happens on this planet. If any serious number of us decided that we really didn’t like what politicians were doing, we could simply withdraw our support and the political systems would crash, and quickly.

The problem is that productive people have been trained to fear responsibility and to believe that they have no right to insert their will into the world. Until that changes, blaming politicians is almost meaningless. Yes, they lie, steal, and cause lots of harm, but they persist because people want them to persist. All their complaints come up shallow.

The rightful controllers of this world are the producers, and they can get whatever they want, as soon as they’re ready to assert their will and to take responsibility for it.

There's no need to go to a fortune teller to figure out what the future portends when it comes to the future of the American family.

Just consider the following statistics, care of the Brookings Institute:
  • In 1960, 72% of American adults were married. In 2010, it's 51%.
  • Of those who do get married, many are doing so later in life.
  • In 1950, 7% of American families with children were single-parent families. In 2013, it's 32% of families. That's an increase of 457%. 
  • 40% of all births today are to single mothers.
  • 50%+ of all births to women under 30 years of age are to single mothers, the majority of whom don't have a college degree and are from poorer socioeconomic circumstances. For those who do have a college degree, 10% of births occur outside of marriage. For those with a high school diploma, 60% of births take place outside of wedlock.

It isn't enough just to observe that the structure of the American family has changed drastically in past six decades, with the number of single-parent families growing dramatically. More substantively, with fewer Americans marrying today yet continuing to give birth, regardless of marital status, those children will be reared in circumstances that are less than ideal if those young people are to develop their fullest potential.

Absent a significant internvention in their lives, many are sure to become victimized by poverty and subsist on government entitlements. Others are sure to become victimized by a culture that views what is "less than ideal" for raising young people as the "ideal."

The liberal solution is to raise taxes in order to intervene in the lives of those young people. The so-called "War on Poverty" was fought with that goal in mind. It didn't work. The conservative solution is to have state and local government as well as faith-based and non-profits groups cope with the problem. That helped in the 1990s, but won't in the future as a debt-ridden federal government is less able to direct $$$s to non-profits and as church attendance continues to decline.

Yes, the traditional American family is in decline. The evidence is already available. How's it to be salvaged?

Let the discussion begin...

To read the Brookings Institute report, click on the following link:
"Families Adrift: Is Unwed Childbearing the New Norm?"

Those plastic shopping bags sure are the bane of those who worship at the altar of environmentalism. They'll do just about anything--including put out misleading and/or false propaganda--to get those plastic shopping bags banned from the face of Mother Earth. After all, Mother Gaia demands it!

To date, their biggest success has proven to be the State of California--no surprise there--which has now banned plastic shopping bags. Previously, 100 of California's municipalities had banned the bags. But, now, it's illegal for stores to use them anywhere in the Golden State.

However, doing so flies in the face of some inconvenient facts, according to research published by the Reason Foundation:
  • Propaganda: The ban will reduce litter.
  • Truth: Plastic bags are <1% of all visible litter and 0.4% of solid waste. In addition, plastic shopping bag bans reduce neither the volume of litter nor the cost of waste disposal. For example, after the ban was implemented, the amount of litter was not reduced. The stormy petrels' claim is a bit overblown, no? Looking at the big picture, reducing "some" of a "little" is pretty inconsequential, no? 

So much for that one. Now try this one:
  • Propaganda: Using alternative bags--for example, paper and reusable bags --is "environmentally friendly."
  • Truth: It takes more energy and water to produce those alternative bags, which increases greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, if those reusable bags aren't washed frequently, they pose health hazards--for example, they spread bacteria. However, If consumers wash those alternative bags, the result would be that reusable bags consume 140% the amount of water that plastic bags do. That isn't very environmentally friendly, now, is it?

Despite the facts, those who worship at the altar of environmentalism continue to tout the virtues of alternative bags. Why? Facts don't matter to Mother Gaia's disciples. Perhaps those who worship at the altar of environmentalism should "rebrand" themselves as this generation's "Flat Earth Society."

Let the discussion begin...

To read Reason Foundation's findings, click on the following link:
"Plastic Bag Ban Hurts California's Economy."

The folks over at CompCamp.com have developed a most interesting infographic: "Things you didn't know about McDonalds."

Using the data provided by a Sponsorship Research International survey, perhaps the most astounding factoid is that McDonald’s is not only the most popular fast food business in the world, but could it also be more popular than Christianity? Believe it or no, 88% of those surveyed identified the Golden Arches logo but only 54% could identifty the Christian cross.

Check out the facts:
Brought to you by: comparecamp Author: Alex Hillsberg
Foounded inn 1955, McDonald’s is the nation's largest restaurant chain and its annual revenue is larger than Vermont’s entire economy. Its US ad spending nearly matched the combined ad spending of Obama and Romney in the last election. McDonald’s is also the world’s largest toys distributor with 1.5B toys sold/year.

But, the Arches more identifiable than the Cross? Omigosh!

Let the discussion begin...
A recent American Enterprise Institute report suggests that the "hike" to the minimum wage that President Obama touts on the stump--and for which he receives much lusty applause from the plants seated behind him--should be called a "tax."

The reasoning is relatively straightforward. By increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10/hour:
  • businesses would pay an additional $2.85/hour for all unskilled laborers, that's an "unskilled labor tax" of $114/week; and,
  • adds $5.7k/year for each minimum wage worker employed.

That's bad enough, but the reality is actually worse:
  • Employers must contribute 6.2% to FICA, 1.45% to Medicare, and 0.6% to the federal unemployment tax.
  • The tax actually costs employers $6.17k/minimum wage worker.

Who's going to pay for the $6k+ tax?

One easy way would be for businesses to pass the costs on to consumers. But, doing so might come at the high price of losing customers.

The more likely scenario is that these business will engage in some of the following:
  • reduce the number of employees;
  • cut their hours; and,
  • halt additional hiring or find ways to utilize automation to replace employees. 

Rather than elminate positions, these businesses may cut employees' non-monetary fringe benefits.

In the end, the people who will be paying for the 39.3% hike in the minimum wage are all of those plants who are seated behind the President and applauding his geneous proposal that's guaranteed to hurt them.

Isn't "taking pleasure in pain" considered a mental disorder?

Let the discussion begin...

To read the American Enterprise Institute report, click on the following link:
"Instead of $10.10 per hour, think of the proposed minimum wage as a $5,700 annual tax per full-time unskilled worker."

The First Lady's foray into public school cafeteria, it ends up, is nothing but an unmitigated disaster. Even those who should be providing cover for her left flank--the National School Boards Association (NSBA)--are screaming "Uncle" and demanding that the "onerous requirements for federal school meal programs" be terminated.
A recent NSBA survey of school leaders revealed:
  • 83.7% saw an increase in plate waste;
  • 81.8% had an increase in cost;
  • 76.5% saw a decrease in participation by students;
  • 75% want increased federal funding to comply with the new meal program standards; and,
  • 60.3% want flexibility for school districts to improve nutrition "without harm to instruction, personnel, and other school district operations."

Who's against requiring children eat more nutritionally beneficial meals?

Probably no one. The challenge is how best to do that...just ask any Mom who struggles with this problem.

Except the nation's First Mom. She and her allies comandeered the nation's public school cafeterias with all sorts of regulations that, she and her allies believed, would change students' eating habits of students. That's the "socialist solution" to an ages-old challenge that's expanded due to the availability of more non-nutritious and tasty processed foods.

But, once the federal government takes over, guess what happens? Not only are the meals "costly and tastless," according to the NSBA survey, but students also continue dumping their full lunch trays into the trash cans.

The result is that instead of providing students more nutritious meals, trays of uneaten cafeteria food end up in trash cans, students continue to be hungry and consume other less-nutiritious edibles, and food-service programs are in debt.

The NSBA's solution? Congress needs to pour more federal taxpayers' $$$s into the program to comply with the regulations.

Isn't that typical of big government, socialist programs that are invented so solve problems? People turn to the federal government to resolve a local problem, the unitary, one-size-fits-all solution then fails, and the solution for the solution is to pour more money into the failed program and increase the number of federal regulations.

What's next? Handcuff students to cafeteria chairs and pour lunch down their throats, hold their noses (with those blue, non-toxic, non-latex, government approved gloves, of course), count to twelve, and then, leave them handcuffed to the chair for another ten minutes to make sure that the more nutritious lunch has begun digesting?

Come to think of it, it's sort of like hiring a political hack and bundler tp resolve a medical threat confronting the nation.

Let the discussion begin...

To read the NSBA survey results, click on the following link:

Proponents of school choice won a rare—and perhaps only short term—victory in court as the New Hampshire Supreme Court upheld the state's tuition tax credit program.

In 2012, New Hampshire began a tax credit program designed to provide a tax credit to businesses that donate money to organizations funding scholarships for low income students in the state. In turn, parents could use the scholarship funds to send their children to private or public school in another district. Parents could also use the funds to homeschool their children.

That wasn’t going to fly with a group of litigants—including parents, taxpayers and special interest groups—who challenged the tax credit program in January 2013. Within 5 months, as should have been expected, a New Hampshire superior court judge ruled the program unconstitutional. The “glitch” was that it granted scholarship funds to students who enrolled in religious schools.

But, in late August 2014, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire vacated the superior court ruling, insisting that the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the program.

Reason.com reports that the Court’s decision challenged the plaintiffs’ assertion that they had been injured by the existence of the tax credit scheme because the law would take funds away from traditional public schools. That claim, the Court maintained, was entirely “speculative,” as it was unclear whether governments would see fiscal losses from an increase in the number of students using the tax credits.

This ruling allows New Hampshire students to continue receiving to benefit from the tax credits, thus allowing more low-income children to attend the schools of their choice.

However, the Court’s ruling did not uphold the constitutionality of the program, only that the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge it. It’s not going to be long before the plaintiffs gather biased data transforming their “speculative” argument into a “real injury” and run straight back to superior court for another decision in their favor.

Let the discussion begin…

To read the Reason.com article, click on the following link:
"N.H. Private School Scholarship Program Saved by a Technicality (But an Important One)." 

In late 2012, a U.S. Federal Court struck down Illinois’ ban on concealed carry permits. Ostensibly, the ban was instituted to make it more difficult for people to be shot by gun-toting murderers.

Consider the demographics of Chicago’s 60624 zip code:
  • It’s the most dangerous in Cook County, with the highest number of homicides, robberies, and narcotics incidents per capita.
  • 98% of residents are Black with a median income slightly above the poverty line.
  • It has the fewest concealed carry firearm permits per capita. Chicago's Englewood, West Englewood, and West Garfield Park neighborhoods have ~115k residents. 193 (or 0.17%) have concealed carry licenses. 

Now consider Cook County’s 60464 zip code:
  • It has experienced 1 homicide in the past 10 years.
  • 96% of its residents are White with an average income of $121k/year.
  • 1.24% of its residents have a concealed carry permit, the highest number in Cook County.

The Washington Times reports that 90% of the 7.37k active permits in Illinois have been granted to White applicants. Why?
  • Applicants must first purchase a weapon.
  • Applicants then must pay an average of $650 to secure a permit, the highest of any state. This fee includes: registration and training for fingerprinting, background checks, taxes, and logistics.

Obviously, the cost is somewhat of a stretch for people whose median income is slightly above the poverty line. Which comes first? Food and medicine or armaments and self-protection?

The fact is that only 8% of Blacks in Chicago possess concealed carry permits. Doesn’t this statistic suggest that the law is disarming law-abiding Blacks who just want to protect themselves and their families from thugs? Residents of Chicago, especially those of the 60624 zip code, shouldn’t have to make those choices. 

The Chicago Police Department appears to be feckless in stemming the City’s murder rate. Even worse yet, the Democrat legislators representing the 60624 zip code believe that disarming their constituents in the face of drug and gang violence is the best way to deal with this urban blight. When a resident asked his alderman to host a meeting to teach the public about their concealed carry right, the alderman declined.

Sad…truly sad.

Does anyone think Mayor Rahm Emanuel would move into 60624 with no security detail to protect him in order to set an example that he won’t tolerate the gun violence?

Let the discussion begin…

To read the Washington Times article, click on the following link:
"Data divulges racial disparity in Chicago's issuance of gun permits."