All of that "hopium and changium" provided care of the 48% of Americans who pay taxes.
What’s the federal government to do when it's already providing more low-cost loans to poor and lower-income students than ever, yet many of those students aren’t graduating? Worse yet, when they're left bearing the weight of college debt without the degree that was promised to increase their income and, hence, help in paying off those debts?

That was the topic of an education summit the White House hosted last January when President Obama convened dozens of college presidents to offer their ideas. Then, it seemed, once the photo op ended, that was that. Until last Monday when, according to Inside Higher Ed, the President gathered 130 experts at the Harvard Graduate School of Education for a confab to address the challenge directly.

The solution the Wizards of Smart proposed?

Better school counseling.

Yes, The Motley Monk isn't kidding. What's needed is:
  • replicating best practices in college counseling;
  • training counselors better; and,
  • using new technology to assist students.

The "solution" is to redirect taxpayers' $$$s--like Title II funds--to counsel students to get into, to remain in, and then, to graduate from college.

According to some of the presenters and panelists at the confab:
  • High schools that serve low-income students tend to have overworked counselors who must handle many more students than do their counterparts at wealthier high schools.
  • The national recommended counselor-to-student ratio is 1:200. But, the national average is 1:471. And, at some low-income schools, the ratio is 1:1000.

Of course, the subtext here is one of class warfare. The "rich" kids are getting more and better than the "poor" kids.

Following the confab, Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell told reporters: “We’re fighting against a decades-long disinvestment from states in counseling.” He also said that Department of Education officials are investigating ways to “boost pre-service training and professional development counselors” in the teacher preparation regulations, improving teacher and principal quality, and prodding states and local school districts to increase funding.

In other words: “Damn those conservatives' torpedoes that have gutted Department of Education funding. Full steam ahead, liberal mateys!” 

The supreme Wizard of Wise--the professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education who organized the conference, Mandy Savitz-Romer--said that making college counseling more effective is a key bridge to making other higher education policies work...like college ratings or the net price calculator. Putting out more and better information to students and families is good, Dr. Savitz-Romer also noted, but it is meaningless if students and families don’t have help interpreting it and personalizing it to their own situations.

College ratings? A net price calculator? Paying someone to give those to high school senios will increase the number of them enrolling in, remaining in, and graduating from college?

“Can we talk?" Joan Rivers would ask, meaning "honestly."

Okay. The Motley Monk will concede that investing in some college counseling may help. But, none of that money addresses the real issue: Students who are not prepared academically for college or to enroll in college.

Irrespective of social and economic status, unless a student possesses the requisite academic preparation, the research is crystal clear: The likelihood of dropping out of college increases. Likewise, students coming from lower socio-economic strata but who are well-prepared academically are much less likely to drop out of college.

Solid academic preparation--as that is measured on standardized achievement tests like the SAT and ACT--not pouring additional taxpayers' $$$s into school counseling will go a lot farther in resolving this issue. Matching objective student achievement to appropriate institutions (and, in the instance where achievement doesn’t merit acceptance into an institution, not getting accepted into college) doesn’t require additional training, more counseling sessions, or adding counselors.

That’s how it has been done in the past and is currently being done in many public and private high schools serving higher-income populations. When the SAT or ACT scores arrive, students are called by name into the school counselor's office. The meeting doesn't last very long. The monologue starts off like this:

     “Listen kid, here’s your score and here are your options. It's time
     to go and make your decision. Welcome to the world of making
     real-life decisions that will have an impact upon the remainder of 
     your life..”

Too tough? Overly harsh? Just "plain, old mean"?

Hardly. Some might call it "tough love." Others might call it "refreshing hope and change."

The Motley Monk will only say that the SAT or ACT score a student receives is the consequence of that student seeking (or not seeking, or seeking by one half) the best academic preparation possible, given one's ability and potential, during a one's high school years.

Isn't that where school counselors should direct their energies? Hasn't the train already left the station by the time the SAT and ACT scores have arrived?

Let the discussion begin...

To read the Inside Higher Ed article, click on the following link:

The Motley Monk has posted a commentary over at The American Catholic titled "It's all Israel's fault, isn't it?"

In that post, The Motley Monk discusses a National Catholic Reporter sociopolitical blog post that points the finger of blame for the current situation in the Gaza strip at the Israelis. Unfortunately, this blog post ignores that Hamas has engaged in internationally proscribed conduct. So much for "fair and balanced" reportage in that blog post.

Check it out...

To access The Motley Monk's post at The American Catholic, click on the following link:

Generally speaking, most people are happy that the federal government has programs like the National Flood Insurance Plan (NFIP) and agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assist citizens striken by natural disasters. Programs and agencies like these make great sense and taxpayers quite likely don't mind having their tax dollars go to fund them. Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy come to mind.

However, when the federal government and its regulators get involved, perhaps the taxpayers would mind having their tax dollars funding those programs and agencies.

Take FEMA which has established minimum building standards which provide the backbone of the NFIP building code. If NFIP is to provide flood insurance to homeowners, then their communities must adopt the NFIP building code.

So far, this makes eminent sense.

In a study examining the effect of hurricanes on barrier island property in Lee County, Florida, Carolyn Dehring and Martin Halek, found that houses built according to FEMA minimum building standards suffer more property damage during hurricanes than homes built prior to the issuance of those regulations. Some facts:
  • Since 1978, NFIP has paid out $3.7B in losses in Florida alone.
  • In 1984, Lee County (FL) joined NFIP, at which point new buildings became subject to the FEMA regulations.
  • In 2004, Hurricane Charley made landfall in Lee County.

Dehring and Halek examined 264 residential properties--specifically at "A-Zones" (areas subject to rising flood waters)--233 of which incurred damage as a result of Hurricane Charley. Buildings in the A-Zone constructed after the NFIP building code was implemented incurred 57% more damages than similarly situated property.

Why was damage in the A-Zone worse? Of those properties, 63 reduced the minimum required elevation of between 1 and 4 feet per FEMA guidelines. Decreasing elevation by 1 foot increased property damage by 1.267%.

Difficult to believe, isn't it? The federal government sets minimum standards to ensure less damage and, hence, decreasing payouts from federal coffers to the insured. But, those standards end up increasing payouts to the insured.

And taxpayers wonder why the federal deficit is increasing? They might first consider asking those "Wizards of Smart" at FEMA who came up with the regulations.

Let the discussion begin...

To read the study, click on the following link:
"Do Coastal Building Codes Make Stronger Houses?"

This short, 5-minute video was forwarded To The Motley Monk. In it, Dennis Prager does an excellent job describing the Arab-Israeli conflict as it has unfolded since 1947.
With the recent increase in anti-Semitism in many places--France and Germany come to mind--it's important to understand the facts which, sadly, are not portrayed accurately in many mainstream media outlets or in public school textbooks.

Let the discussion begin....
If anyone was to believe the union-sponsored propaganda, all of those greedy, capitalist pig, "big box" retailers could care less about their employees. All they are out to do is to destroy small companies, like "Mom and Pop" operations. Worse yet, instead of treating their employees humanely and decently, those "big box" retailers rip off their workers by intentionally paying low wages and offering few or no benefits.

So much for the propaganda. Instead, let's consider some facts detailed in a some research published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

Fact #1: As companies expand, so do wages. And that's after controlling for worker quality and work conditions. To wit:
  • Companies with 1k+ employees pay their high-school-educated employees 15% more than do small companies those having < 10 employees). The same goes for those who possess some college education. They're paid 25% more than employees of small companies.
  • Companies with 500+ employees pay high-school-educated employees 26% more than at companies with < 10 workers. Employees with at least some college education receive 36% more pay at large companies than small companies.

Fact #2: After controlling for worker quality, the pay premium decreases although it is still present, indicating that higher quality workers are funneled into larger companies. To wit:
  • High-school-educated workers who move moving from a small company to a large company receive an 11% pay increase.
  • Workers with some college education who move from a small company to a large company receive a 9% pay increase.
  • Pay rises by 19% when high school educated employees move from a small establishment to a large one.
  • Pay rises by 28% when employees with some college education move from a company to a large one.

Fact #3: Large retailers offer more opportunities for promotion
s to supervisory or managerial positions than do Mom-and-Pop shops. Those promotions also pay higher wages. To wit:
  • Across ability levels, high-school-educated managers earn 23% more than non-managers.
  • Across ability levels, while college-educated managers earn 21% more than non-managers.

So much for the union-sponsored propaganda that's constructed upon "class warfare" theoies. According to the NBER report, these facts "contradict the image of the retail sector as one comprised of the lowest paying jobs in the economy." The simple truth is that those "big box" retailers have increased retail wages and provided their employees more opportunities for promotion and subsequent wage growth.

More importantly, those "big box" retailers want to hire and keep a more educated workforce in order that those companies can grow. To do so, the law of supply and demand dictates that they offer their employees a premium in terms of pay, benefits, and advancement in the workplace. Better yet, the number of those "bix box" retailers in the United States is growing!

All of that is very good good news for retail employees and very bad news for union bosses.

Unions make those promises, but at a very high price to their members. And now, more and more workers are saying "Enough! No more unionization in our workplace."

Perhaps that explains why those union bosses are turning their attention the healthcare workers and adjunct faculty at the nation's colleges and universities. The "big box" retailers are squeezing the union bosses out of $$$s, otherwise known as their "

Let the discussion begin...

To read the NBER report, click on the following link:
"Do Large Modern Retailers Pay Premium Wages?"

Last April, President Obama's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed yet another regulation, this one requiring cigar makers:
  • to obtain approval from the federal government before offering new cigar products;
  • to submit each cigar sold to "rigorous scientific review";
  • to comply with manufacturing requirements;
  • to spend thousands of hours testing new cigar products; and,
  • to pay a "user fee" that costs hundreds of thousands of $$$s.

According to an article published by Watchdog.com, what the FDA ostensibly is selling as an effort to limit youth access to tobacco is, in actuality, a program to make affordable cigars a thing of the past and to drive cigar manufacturers out of business.

For example, the J.C. Newman Cigar Co. of Tampa, Florida (JCN), has been been producing quality cigars since 1895. Founded by a Hungarian immigrant, Julius Caesar Newman, the Tampa-based family business is the last of what was once 150 “Cigar City” factories. Today, JCN uses equipment dating back to the Depression and employs 130 people. When a new employee is hired, it takes 4 months to teach that individual how to use JCN's vintage, hand-operated machines. According to JCN's President, Eric Newman, "Cigars are to Tampa what wine is to Napa Valley and what automobiles are to Michigan."
For JCN, the proposed FDA regulations listed above are even more draconian. Able to produce quality cigars at less than $10/cigar, the regulations could:
  • prevent JCN from using its vintage equipment;
  • increase the price (because JCN's cigars cost < $10, making JCN ineligible for the  "premium cigar" exemption under the FDA's proposal); and,
  • force JCN out of business. 

The FDA will continue receiving public comments on the rule until August 8.

So, now's the time for readers of The Motley Monk to send their negative comments about the proposed regulation to the FDA and HHS regulatory counsel, May Nelson, at:  may.nelson@fda.hhs.gov.

Let the discussion begin...

To read the proposed FDA regulation, click on the following link:

To read the Watchdog.org article, click on the following link:
FDA Rules Could Kill 119-Year-Old Family Cigar Business."

To read the 41k+ comments to the FDA concerning the poposed regulation, click on the following link:
The Motley Monk has posted a commentary over at The American Catholic titled "Beware of government mammon: It always comes with strings attached..."

In that post, The Motley Monk discusses how the decision to accept state funds to run Catholic schools carries with it some foreseeable consequences. In retrospect, these consequences may make today’s “solution” appear foolhardy, especially when those consequences include forcing district superintendents to compromise the Catholic identity of those schools in order to keep the mammon flowing.

Check it out...

To access The Motley Monk's post at The American Catholic, click on the following link:

Talk about a lot of garbage:
  • NYC has 7.2k "sanitation workers." (The Motley Monk would note they used to be called "garbagemen." They were men because women didn't handle garbage or, come to think of it, put up with garbage.)
  • NYC's population of 8.3M produces 8M tons of garbage/year. (Now, that's really a lot of garbage! Do the math: It's 8.38T pounds of garbage (or 1257 pounds/person/year).

To deal with all of that garbage:
  • The NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY) disposes of 50% (or 4.19T pounds) of the garbage/year.
  • 250 private trash firms contract with local businesses to dispose of the other 50% of the garbage.

Why would those businesses contract with those 250 private trash firms and not simply use DSNY?

An article in the Epoch Times provides some answers:
  • Private trash firms utilize recycling, in fact, 63% of their garbage. DSNY recycles only14% of its garbage. Why recycle? Recycling plants pay up to $25/ton for paper recyclables.
  • Compared to those private trash firms, DSNY employees receive unlimited sick days, productivity bonuses, and shift-differential payments. In 2012, the average DSNY employee earned 39% more than the average trash firm employee. Total compensentation for a first-year DSNY employee is $100k+, including retirement benefits, health insurance, as well as holiday and overtime pay. Total compensation for a  DSNY worker with 2 decades of experience is ~$170k.

The Citizens Budget Commission has done the math, finding  that DSNY is spending $431/ton to collect, haul, and dispose of NYC's garbage. But, those private trash firms are spending only $183/ton. That's a 263% premium paid for NYC to run its own garbage collection agency.

The irony in all of this?

Apparently, Mayor de Blasio doesn't want his "sanitation workers" being called "garbagemen" and is putting NYC taxpayers' money where his mouth is by raising the wages of NYC empmloyees to be comparable to other professionals.

No wonder it's so expensive to live in NYC!

Let the discussion begin...

To read the Epoch Times article, click on the following link:
"Hauling Trash in NYC for Twice the Price."

It's no secret that the federal government's student loan programs encourage college attendance, irrespective of the cost. It's also no secret that 37% of undergraduate loans in the Stafford and Parent PLUS programs for the 2012-2013 academic year went to universities and colleges that had 6-year graduation rates of 40% and lower. The Motley Monk has posted about all of that previously.

An article in Forbes reports a dirty little secret The Motley Monk didn't know: A larger student debt load does not mean that a borrower is in worse shape than a person with less debt.

How could that possibly be?
  • Data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau indicate that student borrowers in default tend to be those with the lowest average debt balances.
  • One study found that those who have the highest levels of debt often have the least amount of financial hardship due to education level achieved.

In actual practice, this means the federal government is funding failure.

How so? Out on the stump, while Presdient Obama is touting higher education as a "right," his policymakers back in Washington, DC, are encouraging students to enroll in the better colleges and universities where their government loans make it possible to "pay" those higher tuition rates. Then, more than 33% of these students drop out of those institutions before they graduate, meaning they carry lower debt but lack the degree and, thus, are not successful in securing higher-paying employment to pay off that debt.

Isn't it a perverse policy that would encourage young people to go into debt knowing full well that the economic outcome for more than 33% of those young people will hurt their prospects to participate in moving up the income ladder? Worse yet, that the policymakers know these data but continue to encourage young people to enroll in these high-cost institutions?

And that's to say nothing about all of those institutions across the nation that accept these students they shouldn't have been accepted in the first place. For the two or three years these students are enrolled, they keep the cash flowing in, all thanks to the federal government. Then, when these students leave at semester's end--now indebted to the federal government--similar students take their places who also keep the cash flowing in, all thanks to the federal government.

All in the name of hopium and changium.

Let the discussion begin...

To read the Forbes' article, click on the following link:
"Who's Struggling to Pay Back Their Student Loans? (Hint: It May Not Be Who You Think)."