Friday, January 30, 2015

On education and gradualism

Two articles from NCPA today:

Charter Schools: Doing More with Less Money

January 29, 2015
In honor of School Choice Week, organizations across the country are promoting school choice and explaining how giving parents and students options can allow children to thrive academically. At, Jason Keisling, Nick Gillespie and Lisa Snell have compiled an infographic with some potentially surprising facts about charter schooling:
  • Charters produce more, with less money. In fact, charter schools receive 30 percent less per student than what a typical public school receives, yet they perform better -- for every $1,000 in funds, charter school students perform better on standardized testing -- 16 points higher on reading, and 17 points higher on math.
  • Charter schools have more racial diversity than traditional public schools. Whites make up 52.4 percent of traditional public school students but just 35.6 percent of charter school students.
  • Minority children from low-income families see real academic gains from charter schools. For example, blacks from low-income families attending charter schools receive the equivalent of an additional 7.5 weeks of math instruction and 6.5 weeks of reading instruction.
The Reason report notes that 91 percent of students in New Orleans attend charter schools today. Remarkably, as economist Jared Meyer of Economics21 noted in The Hill, the high school graduation rate in New Orleans has risen from just 54 percent in 2004 to 78 percent today.
Source: Jason Keisling, Nick Gillespie and Lisa Snell, "5 Facts About Charter Schools,", January 28, 2015.


Want to Raise Incomes? Support School Choice

January 29, 2015
Groups across the country are calling for raising the minimum wage, but Diana Furchtgott-Roth, director of Economics21 at the Manhattan Institute, says they should be focused on another issue: school choice.
School choice, says Furchtgott-Roth, would be a much better way to raise wages, incomes and opportunity for low-income Americans, because it slashes dropout rates, improves academic achievement and ultimately leads to economic gains. For example:
  • Researchers from Harvard University and Columbia University determined that replacing a poor teacher with a merely average teacher would boost a student's lifetime earnings by $14,500.
  • A study from the Brookings Institution and Harvard University found that private school vouchers boosted college enrollment for black students by 24 percent.
Allowing students to attend the schools that work best for them is a better way to improve economic mobility than mandating that employers pay minimum wages. Rather than help low-income workers, minimum wage increases reduce employment and job prospects, especially for teenagers.
Source: Diana Furchtgott-Roth, "Minimum Wage Advocates Should Support School Choice," Economics21, January 27, 2015.
There are some people who insist on advocating solely for private schools; the immediate and complete abandonment of state funding for education (and health and welfare). These advocates have a role to play. I differ.

There are these word puzzles that go something like, 'change the word class to growl in 5 steps' changing one letter at each step to form a new word (a do-able example if you want to have a crack).

I view societal change in the same manner. Charter schools or vouchers may only be the first or second step but the third won't be reached until those earlier steps are. And change is dynamic. So by the time the 'final' step is reached, a whole new impetus is working for even further change. Especially when technology is transforming the learning environment so rapidly.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Victim of her own naivety

Tom Scott's DomPost cartoon this morning was predictable.

Here's a comment I sent to Sean Plunket yesterday:

Eleanor Catton  was NOT a victim of the 'tall poppy syndrome' - the existence of which is questionable nowadays - but she will certainly now experience an unpleasant but justifiable backlash, which she will claim proves her point.
Being generous, I think her comments demonstrate  naivety as much as anything else. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

ACT on Little's speech

 Like it.

"This morning the new Labour Leader gave his first state of the nation speech – a chance to see the new direction, if any, that Labour is taking. As they say, talk is cheap, and this speech was bargain basement.
Fully embracing minimalism, the speech didn’t just skimp on details; it tried to make a virtue of it. It was chock full of “finding ways to”, “ensuring that”, “getting serious about”, “harnessing the power of”, “developing a programme of”, “will make sure that”, and so forth."


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Nice work if you can get it

...I couldn't. None of the required qualifications. More to the point, I wouldn't be interested.

The Families Commission (now expediently renamed with the safer, amorphous  label of SUPERu) is advertising for commissioners (now board members.)

The daily fee is $565 - plus expenses - with an expected 10 meetings yearly.

But here's the pre-requisite I kept coming back to when first reading, and then revisiting the application forms:

·         practical knowledge and understanding of the diversity of New Zealand families and family groups, with particular reference to Mäori

Why with "particular reference to Maori"?

Are they intimating that Maori families are more in need of intervention than others, or is it some sort of 'honouring the Treaty' convention?

I am reminded of Bill English telling the Ratana gathering that Labour hadn't adjusted to modern Maori  rejection of paternalism. Yes, well....

Friday, January 23, 2015

Trotter vs Whyte

Yesterday Chris Trotter responded to a NZ Herald opinion piece by Jamie Whyte.

The post was moving down the Daily Blog list but as Whyte has replied, it is now featuring back at the top.

Worth a read.

Another Pickett theory goes west

The mainstream media lap up so-called evidence of the evils income inequality generates. Pickett and Wilkinson's Spirit Level, and local poverty guru, Max Rashbrooke, get plenty of coverage. But the following wasn't reported.

This week the Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit released a report about the teenage birth rate in NZ. It contained  this revelation:

Pickett et al (2005:1182) found that teenage birth rates were positively correlated to OECD income inequality ratings (a correlation of 0.73).
However, more recent trends in income inequality and teenage birth rates do not show this relationship, with New Zealand showing a small decline in income inequality since 1990 and a large decline in teenage birth rates, but the US showing increasing income inequality despite declining teenage birth rates (OECD, 2013).

Yet another Pickett theory goes west.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tax and redistribution

Two recent items from NCPA have particular relevance to New Zealand.

Capital Gains Taxes Should Go Down, Not Up

January 21, 2015
The president wants to raise the top tax rate on capital gains and dividends to 28 percent. What's wrong with the proposal? It will hurt investment and hurt the economy, says Diana Furchtgott-Roth, director of Economics21 at the Manhattan Institute.
What happens when the capital gains tax is raised? The capital gains tax is a tax on the sale of an investment. With high rates, people will retain assets rather than sell them, limiting government revenue. Moreover, firms will limit their investments in order to limit their tax liability, and small firms will struggle to get financing.
The president should be lowering, not increasing, the capital gains tax, says Furchtgott-Roth, as such a move would boost the economy as well as federal revenues. She notes that rate reductions in 1997 as well as 2003 resulted in more asset sales -- and higher tax revenues.
Source: Diana Furchtgott-Roth, "Raising Taxes on Capital Hurts the Middle Class," Economics21, January 20, 2015.
The arguments against raising the tax are the very same as those for not introducing it in the first place. No doubt that battle will replay in 2017. But this piece serves as a reminder that if a capital gains tax was introduced it's just another tax the government can increase arbitrarily; another method by which the government can redistribute more....if there is any more to redistribute!

And why the constant need to increase taxes?

Growing Numbers of Americans Are Receiving Means-Tested Benefits

January 20, 2015
There has been a huge change in the size of the American welfare state over the last three decades, and Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute says America's anti-poverty programs have become more about redistributing wealth than combating actual poverty. Eberstadt offers a staggering look at the growth of entitlement spending:
  • From 1963 to 2013, government transfers from entitlements were the fastest growing source of personal income. Entitlement transfers were just one of every 15 personal income dollars in 1963, but in 2013, they were responsible for one out of every six personal income dollars.
  • As of 2012, more than 49 percent of the American public lived in households receiving at least one government entitlement.
From 1983 to 2012, the number of Americans participating in entitlement programs increased by 20 percentage points. According to Eberstadt, the jump had nothing to do with more Medicare and Social Security beneficiaries due to an aging population -- those two programs were responsible for less than one-fifth of the increase during that time period. Instead, the growth came from means-tested programs aimed at combating poverty. According to Eberstadt's research:
  • From 1983 to 2012, the American population grew by 83 million. During that same period, the number of Americans receiving means-tested benefits grew by 67 million.
  • In 2012, one out of every six Americans were living in a home receiving food stamps.
  • One out of every four Americans today receive Medicaid. From 1983 to 2012, the program grew by 65 million.
  • As of 2012, over 35 percent of Americans were receiving a means-tested welfare benefit.
Does this mean more people today are in poverty than they were in 1983? No, says Eberstadt: 15.2 percent of Americans were below the poverty line in 1983, while 15 percent were below the line in 2012. In fact, he says aid has increasingly gone to people not classified as poor: in 2012, there were twice as many people receiving means-tested benefits as there were people living below the poverty line.
Source: Nicholas Eberstadt, "American Exceptionalism and the Entitlement State," National Affairs, Winter 2015.

Ditto NZ. Growing numbers on New Zealanders receive means-tested benefits. In 1980 fewer than 100,000 people received means-tested benefit. Today it's just over 300,000. Yet the population has only grown by 40 percent (if Working for Families was included the number would more than double.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Anne Tolley makes a fine start

The DomPost has a page 2 piece about families feeling the pinch at the start of the school year.

Kauri Hori starts at a Wellington college this year and his mum, Aurora Hori, is feeling the pinch on an already tight budget....
Hori, who lives with Kauri, her 4-year-old son Tawera and 3-month-old baby girl Te Huriwai, receives $400 a week on the benefit.
Of that $300 is spent on bills which includes rent, power, phone and paying for wood in advance for the winter.
The benefit figure make no sense. Why don't journalists do a bit of research and question its veracity? Otherwise the rest of the article is a waste of time.

In the absence of a mentioned partner I will assume she is receiving sole parent support of $299.45 a week

Then the three children would qualify for family tax credit sum of $220

Then she will receive an accommodation supplement to help with rent. It would be individually calculated but for argument sake, according to Paula Bennett late 2013,

An average sole parent with two children under thirteen, living in South Auckland would receive around $642 on benefit, including accommodation supplement and a minimal extra allowance for costs.
Despite living in Wellington, where the maximum AS rate is lower than Auckland, why would a mother of three children be receiving far less?

The only explanation might be that she has debt to Work and Income. Even then they generally deduct it at a manageable level.

Anyway the journalists went to the Children's Commissioner and a charity and got the usual bleating.

But not from new MSD Minister Anne Tolley who quite clearly and uncompromisingly said

"We have a very generous welfare system . . . I don't think that any of us should back off from the fact it's parents' responsibility to feed their children," she said.
One other thing, both  mothers featuring in the article appeared to have had their youngest while already on welfare. Whose choice was that? Yours and mine? These mothers and all their apologists need to get real.

We are constantly being harangued to care about and pay for similar unhappy situations, which number in the thousands across the country, yet are powerless to prevent them. Only the individual at the centre can make a lasting difference.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

We should be outraged but most don't give a rat's...

Before Xmas I blogged a letter I wrote to my local paper which was published and has duly led to a couple of 'interesting' discussions with 'neighbours' who don't give a f--k about the daylight robbery of nicotine addicts and are quite happy for smokers to pay outrageous taxes to be spent on whatever the govt likes, thank you very much. The very same people would complain bitterly about unreasonable taxes that affect them but are happy for smokers to be persecuted. Also people have told me they love mass surveillance. It makes them feel safe.

Anyway, Jamie left a comment on it this morning which nobody will notice if I don't highlight it today.

Jamie said... I'd like to report a robbery Lindsay

Great post Jamie. I've borrowed a couple of images.

A Nazi anti-smoking ad titled “The chain-smoker”: “He does not devour it (the cigarette), it devours him"

US - more welfare spending, more poverty

The Manhattan Institute has just released a paper detailing US welfare spending and a making a further case for reform. I've done no more than scan through it but here's a telling couple of graphs and commentary. SNAP is the old food stamps program now re-named Supplemental Nutrion Assistance Program.(It is difficult to make any meaningful comparisons to NZ as Medicaid is included whereas unemployment insurance and social security are not considered 'welfare'.)