Still, it’s what we know — that ain’t so — that gets us into trouble

September 10, 2013

Yes, yes, it’s the Dunning Kruger Effect.

It’s being gullible to hoaxes.

Gullible’s travels, etc. (illustration 1)

Gullible’s travels, etc. (illustration 1) (Photo credit: UIC Digital Collections)

And it’s not really understanding politics, or economics, but assuming that we do, that gets us moving in the wrong direction.

Is it dangerous?  The entire Tea Party is misled by their own wrong assumptions.  Mistaken belief in what intelligence sources found in Iraq helped get us into the second longest war in U.S. history (and perhaps the costliest ever). Erroneous beliefs about the economy contributed to the great Crash of 2008.  False beliefs about the economy short-circuited our recovery, after Obama got action to prevent our bottoming out.

They’re still at it.

Today I had a guy tell me that Paul Krugman, the Nobel winning economist from Princeton and the New York Times, was wrong when he advocated creating a housing bubble, back in 2002.

Krugman did that?  Really?

Maybe in the land of Gullible’s Travels.

Turns out the claim is based on a carefully edited-out-of-context quote from a 2002 column Krugman wrote.  It’s a hoax quote, as it appears, and as it appears to make Krugman call for a housing bubble — which he didn’t do.

This guy afraid to put his name to his claims, “Obomination1” hadn’t bothered to check the source.  Any journalist worth the newspaper ink on his hands would have had a clattering Hemingway Brand® Sh** Detector at that point. Krugman advocating a housing bubble?

Not tough to find that quote, and track it back to an opposite-editorial page piece Krugman wrote for the New York Times on August 2, 2002, “Dubya’s Double Dip?”  In it, the usual-critic of Greenspan, Krugman, worried about the failure of the economy to recover except by excessive consumer spending — which both had a finite amount of capability, Krugman argued, and did not mend the organic problems of production that caused the recession whose pain was eased by the NASDAQ bubble but not cured in any way.  Put Krugman’s quote from the photo poster into real context (I’ve highlighted the quoted part below):

A few months ago the vast majority of business economists mocked concerns about a ”double dip,” a second leg to the downturn. But there were a few dogged iconoclasts out there, most notably Stephen Roach at Morgan Stanley. As I’ve repeatedly said in this column, the arguments of the double-dippers made a lot of sense. And their story now looks more plausible than ever.

The basic point is that the recession of 2001 wasn’t a typical postwar slump, brought on when an inflation-fighting Fed raises interest rates and easily ended by a snapback in housing and consumer spending when the Fed brings rates back down again. This was a prewar-style recession, a morning after brought on by irrational exuberance. To fight this recession the Fed needs more than a snapback; it needs soaring household spending to offset moribund business investment. And to do that, as Paul McCulley of Pimco put it, Alan Greenspan needs to create a housing bubble to replace the Nasdaq bubble.

Judging by Mr. Greenspan’s remarkably cheerful recent testimony, he still thinks he can pull that off. But the Fed chairman’s crystal ball has been cloudy lately; remember how he urged Congress to cut taxes to head off the risk of excessive budget surpluses? And a sober look at recent data is not encouraging.

Krugman wasn’t calling for the creation of a housing bubble at all.  He was warning there were other problems that needed to be solved then.  They weren’t solved, the housing bubble collapsed and took down a great deal of the world’s financial markets with it.

So, was Krugman “a loser” as my correspondent claims?  Or is my correspondent looking the wrong way through the telescope, and being suckered by a hoaxed-context quote?

Krugman continued:

On the surface, the sharp drop in the economy’s growth, from 5 percent in the first quarter to 1 percent in the second, is disheartening. Under the surface, it’s quite a lot worse. Even in the first quarter, investment and consumer spending were sluggish; most of the growth came as businesses stopped running down their inventories. In the second quarter, inventories were the whole story: final demand actually fell. And lately straws in the wind that often give advance warning of changes in official statistics, like mall traffic, have been blowing the wrong way.

Despite the bad news, most commentators, like Mr. Greenspan, remain optimistic. Should you be reassured?

Bear in mind that business forecasters are under enormous pressure to be cheerleaders: ”I must confess to being amazed at the venom my double dip call still elicits,” Mr. Roach wrote yesterday at cbsmarketwatch.com. We should never forget that Wall Street basically represents the sell side.

Bear in mind also that government officials have a stake in accentuating the positive. The administration needs a recovery because, with deficits exploding, the only way it can justify that tax cut is by pretending that it was just what the economy needed. Mr. Greenspan needs one to avoid awkward questions about his own role in creating the stock market bubble.

But wishful thinking aside, I just don’t understand the grounds for optimism. Who, exactly, is about to start spending a lot more? At this point it’s a lot easier to tell a story about how the recovery will stall than about how it will speed up. And while I like movies with happy endings as much as the next guy, a movie isn’t realistic unless the story line makes sense.

Had only Greenspan, Bush, and a few million more people only listened to Krugman, then, we might have been spared two decades of lousy economy growth.

But they didn’t.  It wasn’t Krugman who was “the loser,” on this — though he certainly is pained by America’s failure to follow his advice.

Bertrand Russell warned us of the Obomination1/Thiessens and others.  So did Will Rogers, and Kin Hubbard, and Daniel Boorstin, as well as Drs. Dunning and Kruger.

Those who don’t listen to Russell, Rogers, Hubbard, Boorstin, the repentant Mencken, and Krugman, are the losers, and they drag the rest of us with them.

By the way, Krugman’s Nobel was awarded in 2008, after the great shock of the housing bubble’s bursting, but before all the predictions he had made were played out.  He was right.

Santayana’s Ghost dines with von Hayek’s Ghost tonight, and they both smile pityingly at those who ignore Krugman and claim to ridicule him while failing to even check out the accuracy of what they thought Krugman said.

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You need to watch this: Paul Krugman, ‘Jobs NOW, the key to our recovery’

January 15, 2013

As so often the case, Bill Moyers finds THE expert, who has the real answers.  Hint:  Cutting deficits now could bring economic disaster; Paul Krugman carefully and clearly explains why.

Description at Vimeo:

Krugman's book End This Depression Now!

Cover of Paul Krugman’s book, End This Depression Now!

Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman explains why our top priority should be getting America back to work – if only Congress and the President would stop throwing distractions in the way. He also details the catastrophic impact the economic downturn continues to have on average Americans, as well as avenues of hope and recovery. Krugman’s latest book, End This Depression Now!, is both a warning of the fiscal perils ahead and a prescription to safely avoid them.

Yeah, yeah, I know — this thing is 47 minutes long!  Watch ten minutes now, and come back to it.

It’s only the fate of our nation, and the planet, that rides on this information.

Moyers explained on his blog:

Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman argues that saving money is not the path to economic recovery. Instead, he tells Bill, we should put aside our excessive focus on the deficit, try to overcome political recalcitrance, and spend money to put America back to work. Krugman offers specific solutions to not only end what he calls a “vast, unnecessary catastrophe,” but to do it more quickly than some imagine possible. His latest book, End This Depression Now!, is both a warning of the fiscal perils ahead and a prescription to safely avoid them.

Some moments from the conversation:

ON JACK LEW, NOT KRUGMAN HIMSELF, AS POSSIBLY THE NEXT TREASURY SECRETARY
“I probably have more influence doing what I do now than I would if I were inside trying to do the court power games that come with any White House, which I don’t think I’d be any good at… What the president needs right now is he needs a hard-nosed negotiator. And rumor has it that’s what he’s got.” Watch this clip.

ON SAVING VERSUS SPENDING
“We’re awash in excess savings. And if you decide to save more, it’s not actually going to help society… If there’s one crucial thing to understand about all this it is that the global economy, money moves around in a circle. And my spending is your income, and your spending is my income. And if all of us try to spend less because we want to save more, we don’t succeed. All we end up doing is creating a global depression… the thing that all the evidence of history says works in a situation like this is the private sector won’t spend, government can step in and provide the spending that we need in order to keep this economy afloat.”

ON THE POWER OF JOB CREATION
“The only obstacles to putting people to work, to having those lives restored, to producing hundreds of billions, probably $900 billion a year or so of extra valuable stuff in our economy, is in our minds. If I could somehow convince the members of Congress and the usual suspects that deficit spending, for the time being, is okay, and that what we really need is a big job creation program, and let’s worry about the deficit after we’ve had a solid recovery, it would all be over. It would be no problem at all… All the productive capacity is there. All that’s lacking is the intellectual clarity and the political will.”

ON WHAT SHOULD BE OBAMA’S ECONOMIC PRIORITY
“[Obama’s] policy priority right now should be doing whatever he can to at least move in the direction of the kinds of policies that we want for full employment, that we need for full employment. And that the obsessions of Washington about a grand bargain on the deficit are really pretty much beside the point right now. That, if given a choice between doing something that will help the economy in the next two years, and something that will allegedly settle our budget problems for all, you know, for all time, which it wouldn’t, that he should go for the stuff that will help the economy now…

Great Depression

In the Great Depression, people listened to Franklin D. Roosevelt urge full employment, on their radios; this statue is part of the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C. – Photo credit: Koshyk

We happen to have a very intelligent man as president. He’s for real. And he does understand. You can have real discussions with him. And I think he understands that, although things have improved some… it’s a glacial pace, compared with the way we should be… We cannot allow ourselves to be blackmailed into spending cuts, partly because blackmail should not be part of how the U.S. operates, and partly because spending cuts would be disastrous right now. So Obama’s right to say he doesn’t negotiate. I’d like to know exactly what he will do if it turns out that there is not a quorum of sane people in the Republican party.”

ON THE LONG-TERM DAMAGE OF A BAD JOB MARKET
“We have pretty good evidence on how long does it take to make up for the fact that you happen to graduate from college into a bad labor market. And the answer is forever… You’ll miss years getting onto the career ladder. By the time you get a chance to get a job that makes any sense, you know, that makes any use of your skills, you will already be tarred as somebody, ‘Well, you’re 28 years old and you haven’t held a responsible position?’ ‘Well, yeah, I couldn’t because there were no jobs.’ It just shadows your whole life. And it’s very clear in the evidence from past recessions, which have been nowhere near as bad as this one.” Watch this clip.

ON COVERING BOTH THE ECONOMY AND POLITICS
“If you write about economics right now and implicitly adopt the perspective, ‘Well, let’s get reasonable people together in Washington and reach a solution here,’ you’re paying no attention to reality. And, of course, if you talk about the politics without talking about the economics, you’re also missing everything. So how could I not be writing about both?”

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One more time, again: Why “supply side” economics doesn’t work without demand

October 4, 2012

I posted a short excerpt from a recent column by economist Paul Krugman, explaining why GOP reliance on magic to fix the economy probably won’t work.  Commenter David Xavier took issue with Krugman’s analysis.  David’s comment brought home to me just how badly many self-described conservatives misunderstand basic economics, especially the keystone free enterprise principles of supply and demand.

My explanation of why supply side economics can’t work came out for the 21st time at least.  Let’s make a post of it, in hope that more people may read it and view it, and understanding may increase.

David Xavier said:

Krugman wants the government to spend as this will drive demand. But “demand is constituted by supply”. To buy something you must first produce and sell something. The selling is what gets you the money, but the production of value adding output is what first allows you to sell. Without value adding activity, there is nothing to sell and therefore there is no basis for demand.

I replied:

Well, there’s the problem. You don’t understand either the law of supply, nor the law of demand. You’re talking “supply side” economics, which we discovered didn’t work way back in 1982 through 1988.

Supply does not stimulate demand, ceteris paribus. It’s the other way around. Henry Ford’s Model A didn’t created demand for transportation; the demand for transportation, coupled with a demand for transportation that didn’t involve horses and their natural effluents, created a demand for a horseless carriage. Ford created a machine that met that demand, and could manufacture it in enough quantity to matter.

Demand is not “constituted from supply.” Demand comes from needs, and wants. If supply can be created to meet that demand, demand can be met from supply.

But demand comes first, as Krugman, a Nobel-winning economist, well understands.

If consumers have no money to buy, the quantity supplied cannot matter in the least. If there were no demand for transportation at all, Henry Ford is sunk.

The law of supply explains how producers go about meeting demands — if prices are higher, they are happier to supply more. Again, if consumers have no money to purchase the good or service offered, the amount of supply is completely irrelevant.

Before Henry Ford’s mass production of automobiles created a demand for gasoline, gasoline was cast off from oil refining as a waste product from the production of kerosene for lanterns. Refineries from Standard Oil dumped millions of gallons of gasoline into rivers — no demand, the massive supply simply did not matter.

And as we can see from that example, demand not only creates the market, it can make a product considered to be waste, into the economic equivalent of gold.

Without demand, supply is simply excess manure, or gasoline by-product from the production of kerosene, to be dumped into a river (and thereby pollute the hell out of the river).

You’re right to say that without value-added activity, there is no economic activity. But tell that to Mitt Romney, who thinks finance is the magic, and not production.

A key problem with all of Republican economics is the ignoring of consumers, and ignoring the reality that consumers need money to stimulate demand. Tax cuts can’t help the hungry, who cannot eat tax cuts, nor the unemployed, who cannot take to the bank tax cuts on non-existent income.

Your odd myopia — maybe blindness — to the reality of how economics works, is shared by a lot of so-called conservatives. It’s a tragedy; it’s a tragedy I hope voters will put an end to, soon.

Did you ever notice that no supply-side economist has ever won a Nobel? Have you noticed that few supply-side economics articles are available in journals? Has your search for the numbers to back up the Laffer curve been as unproductive as they have been for everyone else — including Arthur Laffer? (Laffer promised to publish an article explaining how supply side economics work, as soon as he got the numbers together. That was in 1982. 40 years later, there is still no real intellectual foundation for GOP claims of tax cuts creating wealth. Those studies that have been done suggest tax rates maximize revenue when taxes hit about 70%, more than three times the rates Laffer proposes. History shows a much different story than Laffer claimed: Tax cuts in the Harding and Coolidge administrations led to bubbles that collectively burst in October 1929, leading to the Great Depression; tax cuts in 2001 led to bubbles in housing and the stock market, which burst in 2008, leading to our Great Recession.)

Right now, businesses are sitting on a pool of about $2 trillion, profits they’ve accumulated since 2008. If supply side economics worked, that money would be invested in manufacturing and service creation, and we should have an unemployment rate in negative numbers. The disproof of supply side economics is our current situation. Employers have plenty of supply of money, but they refuse to hire without demonstration of demand from consumers. Unemployed consumers, lacking money, cannot make that demand up from thin air. Magic does not work, in the real world of supply and demand, in economics.

Nota bene:  Videos come from a delightful series on economics created and put up on YouTube by Dr. Mary J. Glasson, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.  Glasson’s series is available at YouTube and covers almost every topic in an entry-level survey undergraduate economics course.  Look for “mjmfoodie” at YouTube.com.

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More magic than a cape and red underpants needed to fix economy; but that’s all GOP offers

October 4, 2012

Despite the few details he leaked in the Denver debate — which contradict almost everything he and his campaign had said earlier, not to mention the GOP platform — Mitt Romney offers not much in the realm of a program to do better than President Obama in economics, in pulling the nation out of our economic doldrums.  Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman explains:

Winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, Paul Krugman - Tavis Smiley Productions image

Winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, Paul Krugman – Tavis Smiley Productions image

As many people have noticed, Mr. Romney’s five-point “economic plan” is very nearly substance-free. It vaguely suggests that he will pursue the same goals Republicans always pursue — weaker environmental protection, lower taxes on the wealthy. But it offers neither specifics nor any indication why returning to George W. Bush’s policies would cure a slump that began on Mr. Bush’s watch.

In his Boca Raton meeting with donors, however, Mr. Romney revealed his real plan, which is to rely on magic. “My own view is,” he declared, “if we win on November 6, there will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country. We’ll see capital come back, and we’ll see — without actually doing anything — we’ll actually get a boost in the economy.”

Are you feeling reassured?

In fairness to Mr. Romney, his assertion that electing him would spontaneously spark an economic boom is consistent with his party’s current economic dogma. Republican leaders have long insisted that the main thing holding the economy back is the “uncertainty” created by President Obama’s statements — roughly speaking, that businesspeople aren’t investing because Mr. Obama has hurt their feelings. If you believe that, it makes sense to argue that changing presidents would, all by itself, cause an economic revival.

There is, however, no evidence supporting this dogma. Our protracted economic weakness isn’t a mystery; it’s what normally happens after a major financial crisis. Furthermore, business investment has actually recovered fairly strongly since the official recession ended. What’s holding us back is mainly the continued weakness of housing combined with a vast overhang of household debt, the legacy of the Bush-era housing bubble.

By the way, in saying that our prolonged slump was predictable, I’m not saying that it was necessary. We could and should have greatly reduced the pain by combining aggressive fiscal and monetary policies with effective relief for highly indebted homeowners; the fact that we didn’t reflects a combination of timidity on the part of both the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve, and scorched-earth opposition on the part of the G.O.P.

But Mr. Romney, as I said, isn’t offering anything substantive to fight the slump, just a reprise of the usual slogans. And he has denounced the Fed’s belated effort to step up to the plate.

Read more at the New York Times.

Why do I disbelieve?

  1. For more than a year Romney’s been pushing tax cuts as a solution to everything.  It’s rather late to back out of that now.
  2. Tax cuts can’t stimulate the economy — we tried them for 8 solid years, and they crashed the economy.  One can make a great case that the Obama economy is not soaring because he agreed to extend the tax cuts, in return for getting about half of the stimulus we needed.  At some point, people hurting in this economy will realize that they can’t benefit from a tax cut if they aren’t paying huge taxes, and they aren’t paying huge taxes if they are unemployed.
  3. Tax cuts cannot be revenue neutral.  They hurt deficits.  For months Romney’s been talking about defense spending and tax cuts that add between $5 trillion to $7 trillion in to the deficit.  If he wishes to argue that deficits hurt, he’s in trouble.  If Obama argues that deficits should be used to help people, Romney will be unable to make the math work on his plan if he tries to reply.
  4. Economic theory isn’t with Romney.  Can he make that big of a snow job on voters?  Even if he does, the economy won’t take it.

Now’s a good time to beef up on the high school economics most of us took, or the college class we took.  Can you see any way to make an austere, Spain-style economy work in the U.S. without putting us into a death spiral?

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Taking from the poor to give to the rich, 1979-2007

August 14, 2012

For honest seekers of economic truth, the question about what went wrong that led to the recent great economic collapse has deep roots — but not complicated roots.

Our increases in wealth came at the expense of the poor and especially middle class, and they went to the tiny fraction of people at the very top who now own much of your nation.

Redistribution of wealth, Paul Krugman from CBO figures

Paul Krugman’s graphic of redistribution of wealth in the U.S., figures from the Congressional Budget Office

Our most vocal Nobel-winning economist, Paul Krugman noted at his blog:

The top quintile excluding the top 1 percent – which is basically the abode of the well-educated who aren’t among the very lucky few – has only kept pace with the overall growth in incomes. Just about all of the redistribution has taken place from the bottom 80 to the top 1 (and we know that most of that has actually gone to the top 0.1).

Much of our current difficulty in climbing out of recession can be told from this chart.  People who would normally be spending money for food, gasoline, clothing, cars, home repairs and incidentals, simply don’t have the money to spend.  Consequently, demand is down.  Consequently, the top 1% will not invest their money in the U.S. to meet that non-existent demand.  This is the ultimate failure of “supply-side” economics writ large.  The very rich can consume only so much.  Additional wealth stashed away, even in domestic accounts, will not be spent for more food, or more housing, or more transportation.  Even the very rich can eat only so much, travel so much, and few of them behave exactly like Saddam Hussein, with palaces they will never even see.  Meanwhile, the bottom 80%, which includes the middle class, lacks money to spend on education, housing, durable goods, and transportation — despite needing more of all of those things.

Below the fold, the CBO report’s highlights press release, from the Congressional Budget Office.

Read the rest of this entry »


Krugman sez: Debt non-explosion

August 31, 2011

Radio filled with talk about “the debt explosion?

Not so, Krugman’s charts say:

August 31, 2011, 6:36 pm

The Debt Non-Explosion

A conversation I had earlier today suggested that it might be worth pointing out a fact that isn’t as widely known as it should be: namely, that there has not been an explosion in debt over the past few years. There has been a big rise in federal debt, but this has gone along with a collapse in private borrowing, so that overall debt growth has been lower than it was in the pre-crisis years:

Source.

Bear this in mind when someone starts ranting about hyperinflation just around the corner thanks to explosive debt growth.

Which suggests, once again, that it will be up to the government to do the economy growing.  It’s not a question of whether we think, philosophically, that government should be the main driver of economic expansion.  It’s a question of, what do you do when private business is sitting on $1.5 trillion in cash instead of hiring, and businesses who lack the cash are not borrowing to hire either, despite record low interest rates?

Under these conditions, it might be considered unpatriotic NOT to support a massive stimulus program, yes?

Didn’t anybody take high school economics?


No, race isn’t the cause of our economic and education woes

March 11, 2011

Just when you think the conservatives can’t possibly sound any more like fascists of the 1930s . . . I mean, can we just repeal Godwin’s law and call a racist fascist argument, a racist fascist argument?

Paul Krugman, whose Nobel Memorial Prize for economics galls conservatives more than left turns bothered J. Edgar Hoover, noted the other day that Texas is in a series of fixes.  This is important because Texas is what Wisconsin’s governor claims Wisconsin should be:  Shorn of union interference in almost all things, especially in public service sectors including education.  Krugman wrote in his column, “Leaving Children Behind”:

Texas likes to portray itself as a model of small government, and indeed it is. Taxes are low, at least if you’re in the upper part of the income distribution (taxes on the bottom 40 percent of the population are actually above the national average). Government spending is also low. And to be fair, low taxes may be one reason for the state’s rapid population growth, although low housing prices are surely much more important.

But here’s the thing: While low spending may sound good in the abstract, what it amounts to in practice is low spending on children, who account directly or indirectly for a large part of government outlays at the state and local level.

And in low-tax, low-spending Texas, the kids are not all right. The high school graduation rate, at just 61.3 percent, puts Texas 43rd out of 50 in state rankings. Nationally, the state ranks fifth in child poverty; it leads in the percentage of children without health insurance. And only 78 percent of Texas children are in excellent or very good health, significantly below the national average.

But wait — how can graduation rates be so low when Texas had that education miracle back when former President Bush was governor? Well, a couple of years into his presidency the truth about that miracle came out: Texas school administrators achieved low reported dropout rates the old-fashioned way — they, ahem, got the numbers wrong.

It’s not a pretty picture; compassion aside, you have to wonder — and many business people in Texas do — how the state can prosper in the long run with a future work force blighted by childhood poverty, poor health and lack of education.

But things are about to get much worse.

A few months ago another Texas miracle went the way of that education miracle of the 1990s. For months, Gov. Rick Perry had boasted that his “tough conservative decisions” had kept the budget in surplus while allowing the state to weather the recession unscathed. But after Mr. Perry’s re-election, reality intruded — funny how that happens — and the state is now scrambling to close a huge budget gap. (By the way, given the current efforts to blame public-sector unions for state fiscal problems, it’s worth noting that the mess in Texas was achieved with an overwhelmingly nonunion work force.)

Krugman was too easy on Perry.  In his campaign last year, Perry claimed that Texas had plenty of money, a surplus, even.  In debates with Democratic candidate Bill White, Perry pooh-poohed the notion that Texas had a sizable deficit, certainly not the $18 billion deficit White named.

No, the Texas deficit actually is north of $25 billion.  (Linda Chavez-Thompson, the defeated Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor, addressed Perry’s denial in a line that very few reporters bothered to report (or report accurately):  “Do you know how many zeroes there are in 18 billion?” Chavez-Thompson said. “11, when you count Perry and Dewhurst.”)

But blogger Iowahawk would hear none of that — no, the issue isn’t bad government and poor fiscal management.  Texas loses out in education because its got more racial minorities, he wrote at some length.

Other bloggers who should know better, or at least should be struck by the repugnance of the claim that race is the problem, spread the claim, including Paul E. Peterson at EducationNext and Mark at Pseudo-Polymath.

Krugman’s original point was untouched by any of these guys.  Texas is in deep trouble, on many, many fronts.  One of the more common comments on Texas education is, “Thank God for Mississippi!”  Mississippi’s having closed down its education system rather than integrate, and continued underfunding and mismanagement since the federal government forced the reopening, keeps Mississippi at the bottom of almost all state rankings regarding children.  That means Texas isn’t dead last.  Texas’s very real problems will affect racial disparities in achievement, but they are in no way caused by racial disparity, or race of the students.

Notice, too, how Iowahawk changed the comparison.  Krugman noted dropout rates.  Unable to muster a direct rebuttal to Krugman’s point, Iowahawk switched to comparing scores in NAEP.  It’s not the same thing by any stretch.

No Texas teacher would say Texas performs better than any other state in stopping dropouts.  While we might brag a bit on how we’ve increased scores on the ACT and SAT, it’s not across the board, and it’s not enough.  (It’s a miracle with the stingy funding, and it will likely stop with the proposed budget cuts — but we’re proud of our ability to make improvement despite obstacles carefully placed by state policy makers.)

Notice, too, that dropouts tend to perform more poorly on standardized tests.  If one wishes to screw around with the statistics for spin, one might note that by forcing students to drop out, Texas raises its scores on NAEP.  I seriously doubt any Texas educator conducts a campaign to get dropouts to boost NAEP scores, but let’s be realistic.  (Which is not to say that there is not a lot of action to mask the dropout problem; a Texas high school is responsible for the academic achievement of kids who drop out, or more accurately, the lack of academic achievement.  Dropouts count against a school’s performance rating, and count hard.  Every school on the cusp of “Exemplary,” or “Recognized,” or “Unacceptable,” has a campaign to track down dropouts to find that they have enrolled in another school to whom blame can be passed, or that they have left the state or the nation, and so don’t count in Texas at all.  One wishes one could school administrators and legislators in Deming’s Red Bead Experiment.)

It’s impossible to claim Wisconsin union teachers are to blame for any Wisconsin woe, when Texas, with it’s strong anti-union stands and ban on unionizing among teachers, performs worse, on average.

Will busting the unions put Wisconsin in the black?  It didn’t work for Texas.

Will busting the unions help Wisconsin schools?  You can’t make that case based on the information from Texas.  In fact, Angus Johnson conducted a more serious analysis of statistics that may provide a better view into the issue, and they tend to show that unionized teachers improve education performance.

Surely these guys understand where their argument ends up.  It is absolutely untrue that Texas’s minorities dragged the state into deficits.

We know where Texas deficits came from.  Several years ago Texas cut property taxes, a key source of education and other funding for the state, promising to make up the difference with corporate tax reforms.  But the corporations blocked significant reform.  Texas has been running on empty for six years, and now the deficits are simply too big to hide.

Unwise tax cuts, made for political gains, that put Texas in the dumper.

It wasn’t unions, and it sure wasn’t the large population of hard-working, tax-paying, union-needing Hispanics and blacks and Native Americans who got Texas in trouble.  They didn’t get the tax cut benefits, for the most part.

Race is not the cause of our education and budget woes, except in this way:  Racists, especially the latent, passive-aggressive sort, will not hesitate to cut programs that they see benefiting minorities.  Those education programs that have done the most to reduce the achievement gaps between the races, boosting minority achievement, are the first to go under the Republican budget meat cleavers.  The proposed cuts are not surgical in any way, to preserve education gains.


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