Month: April 2012

Kathryn Hickok interviewed on the value of motherhood

We sat down with Cascade’s Publications Director, Kathryn Hickok, to discuss her latest commentary, “Knowing the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing.”

Click here to read her commentary.

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The Day We the People Stood Up

By Trent England

On April 19, 1775, a group of ordinary, small-town Americans stood up in defense of their property, their community, and their ideas. First at Lexington and then at Concord, they put their very lives in danger. A new online program called “We The People” offers basic information about American principles and the pivotal events that forged our nation at a time when reconnecting with those principles is once again essential. It begins with the Battle of Lexington….

 

Most people were sound asleep when the alarm came. Men and women roused themselves and heard the news: British soldiers were marching toward their town. Each man and woman faced a decision. They could ignore the alarm, perhaps pretending not to hear, and remain under warm blankets safe from the cold and uncertain night. Or they could rise up, make their preparations, and step out into the misty darkness.

 

In the town of Lexington, Massachusetts, men and women rose up. They lit candles with shaky fingers and tried not to wake their children. John Parker—a farmer and the elected captain of the Lexington militia—dressed quickly, took his flintlock musket from the wall, and went out. He was older than his 45 years, frail and sick, and still a trusted and resolute man. He walked in the darkness to the triangle-shaped field, the town green, which sat beside the road from Boston to Concord.

 

Anna Harrington sent her husband, Daniel, to the green. She knew that her father, Robert Munroe, a veteran of the war against the French and Indians, would be there as well. At least eight Munroes and nine Harringtons assembled on the Lexington green. By 2 a.m., as many as 130 men were standing in the dark in the wet grass on the green.

 

The odds were against them. The soldiers were well armed and well trained; many were hardened veterans. The townspeople were the opposite—mostly ordinary men and women with small farms or businesses and large families. By offering any opposition to the soldiers, the people risked their lives, possessions, families—everything. Yet, hundreds and later thousands would step away from ordinary lives and decide that they, too, were willing to stand, to fight, even to die.

 

The people of Lexington had hurried, and now they waited. With no sign of approaching troops, Captain Parker released his men to wait indoors. They gathered in nearby homes and at Buckman’s Tavern adjacent to the green. It was 4:30 a.m. when one of Captain Parker’s lookouts frantically rode into town yelling that the soldiers were just behind him. Young William Diamond beat his drum to summon back the militia. Sergeant William Munroe hastily lined up the returning men in two ranks.

 

British light infantry—troops selected for their strength and stamina—entered Lexington at a double-quick march. Each infantryman carried the five-foot-long “Brown Bess” musket. Each musket was loaded with gunpowder and a .75 caliber lead ball and topped with a 17-inch steel bayonet. The soldiers were miserable—tired of sitting around in Boston, wet after wading ashore from boats at the beginning of the night’s march, and cold. But they were professional soldiers ready for a fight and convinced of their superiority against this rabble of farmers.

 

Three British officers on horseback rode forward yelling orders at the men of Lexington: “Lay down your arms, you damned rebels, and disperse.” No more than 70 of Captain Parker’s men had reached the field; they faced several hundred red-coated light infantry with a thousand and more on the road behind them. Captain Parker decided it was futile to fight, but he and his men refused to surrender their arms. Just as the militia began to withdraw under a hail of British curses, there was a shot.

A few overeager British infantry fired randomly and to no effect. Then a massed volley of British fire ripped through the Lexington men. Jonas Parker, the Captain’s cousin, returned fire but he was already gravely wounded. He sank to his knees frantically trying to reload; before he could raise his musket a second time he was stabbed to death with a bayonet.

 

Other militiamen fired, others were hit. Jonathan Harrington was shot in the chest as his wife, Ruth, and their eight-year-old son looked on from their home. As Jonathan staggered toward his front door, his wife rushed out to him. He fell and died before she reached him.

 

Seven men were killed and nine wounded on the Lexington green that morning. At least one more would be killed in fighting later that day. This was a quarter of the men who stood there—who stood up for their community and for what they believed.

 

As the British marched away from the bloodied town green, the Lexington fight appeared purposeless and inconsequential. Yet, the sacrifice at Lexington changed everything; it delayed the British and forged in a moment the resolve that would become manifest at Concord. There the unthinkable would happen—the British would turn, flee back through Lexington into Boston, and within a year surrender the city altogether.

 

Once again we hear the call for America to “return to her Founding principles.” The ideas that forged our heritage―like limited government, federalism, and religious liberty―matter only to the extent that we understand them and apply them to today’s challenges. The American story is a gripping story with real heroes—people who made choices, took risks, made mistakes, and, in the end, set the stage for the American nation. Today, ordinary Americans―many of whom have never been involved in politics―are getting involved in their local governments, taking a stand in their communities, and joining with their neighbors to defend their rights as Americans. The “We the People” project hopes to assist today’s patriots in defending those principles for America’s next generation of citizens.

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Working to Live―or for Runaway Government Spending?

Tax Freedom Day arrived this year on April 17, coincidentally the same day tax returns were due. Tax Freedom Day is a calendar-based measure of Americans’ cumulative tax bill. It is calculated as the day on which Americans have worked long enough to pay all their taxes. Americans worked 107 days to earn enough money to pay this year’s combined federal, state, and local taxes. These taxes include personal income taxes, payroll taxes, corporate income taxes, and property and sales taxes.

 

However, this is only what Americans actually pay, not what government spends. According to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, “if the federal government raised taxes enough to close the budget deficit—an additional $1.014 trillion—Tax Freedom Day would come on May 14 instead of April 17. That’s an additional 27 days of government spending paid for by borrowing.”

 

Americans currently pay more in taxes ($4.04 trillion) than they do on food, clothing, and housing combined ($3.89 trillion). The saying goes, you should “work to live, not live to work.” But the more government grows, the more Americans are working less to live and more to pay for runaway government spending. That leaves fewer resources to invest in the real engines of economic growth: private sector businesses that create jobs and produce goods and services for a market fueled by Americans’ hard-earned purchasing power.

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Testimony Before TriMet Board of Directors Regarding the Proposed FY 2012-13 Budget

 

 

Testimony of John A. Charles, Jr.

 

Before the TriMet Board of Directors

 

Regarding the Proposed FY 2012-13 Budget

 

 

 

April 25, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

There are some elements of the proposed budget that move TriMet in the right direction. I support the proposals to eliminate the free-rail zone and reduce streetcar funding. Rail passengers have been coddled for far too long and these changes will require them to finally put some skin in the game.

 

 

 

Notwithstanding this progress, the budget overall has serious problems that the Board needs to address. The first is the assumption that management will win its protracted dispute with the ATU. Management has been forecasting this outcome for years, and has consistently been wrong. Examples of past predictions include the following:

 

 

 

  • TriMet press release, April 13, 2011: “The FY2012 budget assumes that a new Working and Wage Agreement with the ATU has benefits more in line with peer agencies, and consistent with those contained in TriMet’s July 2010 Final Offer.”

 

 

 

  • TriMet FY 2012 budget message, July 2011: “A critically important assumption upon which TriMet’s financial forecast and the FY 12 Adopted Budget are based is that TriMet enters into a Working and Wage Agreement WWA) with the Amalgamated Transit Union, probably through the binding arbitration process, and that the wages and benefits are consistent with those contained in TriMet’s July 2010 Final Offer….”

 

 

 

  • TriMet press release, October 26, 2011: “The contract expired in 2009 and both parties are now heading to interest arbitration scheduled for mid-January 2012.

 

 

 

  • TriMet FY 13 budget message, April 2012: “…the FY 13 proposed budget includes a $12 million revenue increase/expenditure reduction package, based on the assumption of a labor arbitration decision favorable to TriMet.”

 

 

 

Given that every recent prediction about the ATU contract has been wrong, it might be time to change the forecast. A more prudent forecast would be that the ATU wins, creating a $5 million imbalance for FY 13. Perhaps that should be addressed now in the current draft budget.

 

 

 

The second big problem with the budget is the continued fantasy that rail construction has no harmful effects on bus service. Some board members may not be aware that in February 2011, TriMet succeeded in getting the Oregon Transportation Commission to approve $13 million in scarce OTC “flex funds” for the Milwaukie light rail project, by promising that TriMet will “agree to refrain from requesting Capital bus Program funds for bus purchases for the next three biennia…”  This deal was made even though TriMet had been so desperate for new buses that it had put a $125 bond measure on the ballot the previous November. My testimony to the OTC is attached.

 

 

 

TriMet management simply does not value bus service; all the glamour is perceived to be in the ribbon-cutting ceremonies for new train lines. In FY 13 TriMet will sell bonds for PMLR and thus incur $3 million in new debt service. The agency is already paying more than $25 million in annual debt service for previous light rail bonds. This debt is a major reason why bus service has been cut by 13% in recent years, even though buses move 2/3 of TriMet customers each day.

 

TriMet has never demonstrated that the alleged “operating cost savings” of rail transit offsets the debt service and other “opportunity costs” associated with new rail construction.

 

 

 

There’s a very simple solution: terminate all rail expansion plans. It doesn’t matter how attractive rail may have once seemed; moving forward, the capital costs cannot be justified. It is indefensible to impose service cuts year after year, while spending more than $205 million/mile for tiny expansions of the rail empire (7.3 miles for PMLR and 2.9 miles for the CRC).

 

 

 

A third point is that the proposed budget once again hides the true cost of labor, by planning for another token payment into the OPEB trust fund of $865,760. While this is better than the FY 12 contribution of $410,000, the level recommended by the outside auditor last July was $77.7 million.

 

 

 

The unfunded actuarial accrued liability for OPEB is at least $876 million, and because TriMet is allowed to carry this debt off-book the public naturally assumes that all is well when the agency announces that it has a “balanced budget” each year. This practice of shifting obligations downstream simply sets up a ticking time bomb for future TriMet board members.

 

 

 

While making the full ARC payment of $77 million would be impossible now, a substantial down payment – with the tough decisions it would force right now — would have the medicinal effect of waking up the public to the seriousness of the problem.

 

 

 

Finally, attached is a chart showing the juxtaposition of TriMet’s huge revenue increases since 2004 with the steady decline in transit service.  This is a disgrace, yet the Board continues to accept it year after year, without even considering fundamental changes in strategy.

 

 

Business as usual is not going to work anymore. It’s time for board members to stop acting like victims and start taking control of the organization.

 

 Click here to see February 14 OTC Testimony.

TriMet Financial Resources, 2004-2013 (000s)

 

 

FY 04/05

FY 08/09

FY 10/11

FY 11/12 (est)

FY 12/13 (budget)

% Change 04/05-12/13

Passenger fares

$   59,487

$   90,016

$   96,889

$   104,032

$117,166

+97%

Payroll tax revenue

$171,227

$209,089

$224,858

$232,832

244,457

+43%

Total operating resources

$308,766

397,240

$399,641

$476,364

$465,056

+51%

Total Resources

$493,722

$888,346

$920,044

$971,613

$1,111,384

+125%

 

Note: TriMet payroll tax rate increased effective 1/1/05, and will rise .01% every January through 2024.

 

 Annual Fixed Route Service Trends since 2004

 (light rail, bus, commuter rail)

 

2004

2006

2008

2010

2011

% change

             

Peak veh

625

606

613

618

601

-3.8%

Revenue hrs

143,784

137,973

144,469

133,776

128,435

-10.7%

Vehicle hrs

2,621,657

2,476,114

2,532,453

2,375,802

2,247,113

-14.3%

 

Sources: Annual budget documents; monthly TriMet performance reports.

 

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Sarah Ross talks with Bill Post about Oregon’s slipping economic outlook

In her first weekly interview on the Bill Post Show, Cascade’s communications coordinator Sarah Ross talked with Bill about Oregon’s slipping economic outlook and the benefits of a right-to-work system.

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The Proper Use of Road Tolling in Oregon

John Charles presented his views on the proper use of road tolling in Oregon with ODOT’s Long Range Planning Manager,  Robert Maestre, and the Chair of the Birdshill CPO/NA, Charles Ormsby, during Birdshill’s panel discussion in Lake Oswego earlier this week.

 

Video by Jim Karlock.

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John Charles talks with Victoria Taft on light rail use and TriMet

Talk show host, Victoria Taft, talked with John Charles Monday about light rail use for the Expo Center’s Cirque de Soleil event, the Sustainability Center, and the future of TriMet.

 

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A Mother’s Gift Is Priceless

Democratic adviser and CNN contributor Hilary Rosen caused widespread offense April 11 by saying that Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, “never worked a day in her life.” Rosen’s remarks suggested that because Ann Romney was a stay-at-home mother, she “never worked” and cannot understand the American economy like women with paying careers. Romney later responded: “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.”

 

Romney’s statement is true. However, the ensuing public focus on how “hard” it is to raise children seems to imply that the difficulties of being stay-at-home mother are what make it an equally worthy choice as a paying career. But raising children doesn’t derive its worth from being “hard.” Motherhood isn’t so much a “tough job” as it is a gift of self―a loving act of recreating the universe anew for her child.

 

All work―paid and unpaid―derives its value from the dignity of the human person. Despite market price comparisons for the things stay-at-home mothers do (which are considerable), no price can be placed on the gift of self that is motherhood. Utilitarian arguments forget that human beings are valuable for their own sakes, not for what they produce in the economy or for the equivalent monetary value of their unpaid work. A mother raising children is worthy of reverence, not because motherhood is hard, but because it is great.

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Knowing the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing

Democratic adviser and CNN contributor Hilary Rosen caused widespread offense April 11 by saying that Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, “never worked a day in her life.” Rosen’s remarks suggested that because Ann Romney was a stay-at-home mother, she “never worked” and cannot understand the American economy like women with paying careers:

 

“Guess what? His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing, in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school?”

 

Romney responded via Twitter: “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.” On a FOX News interview, she elaborated: “My career choice was to be a mother, and I think all of us need to know we need to respect choices women make.”

 

The overwhelming political, media, and public responses to this incident involved women and men reiterating that women have the right to make their own choices about career and family, raising children is a vital endeavor, women running households are on the frontlines of the economy, and motherhood can be the hardest job in the world.

 

Of course, all these statements are true. However, focusing on relative definitions of “hard” misrepresents the value of motherhood and misses the fundamental point of what all mothers do and are. In fact, the utilitarian value system represented by words like “hard,” or to equate a meaningful investment of one’s life and energy with paid work, is one of the greatest fallacies of modernity.

 

Work―of any sort―does not have relatively greater value because it is “harder” or because it earns money. Work derives its value from the dignity of the human person who performs it. It is an extension of one’s personality and a manifestation of human creative power. Work derives its meaning from human beings, not the other way around. Sometimes work is performed for pay. Sometimes it is given as a gift of love.

 

Motherhood, and mothers foregoing careers or making other sacrifices to raise children, should not be respected and appreciated because raising children is “the hardest job a woman can do.” Mothers must be respected and appreciated because who they are and what they give their families is intrinsically of great worth―in more ways than the dollar value (which for stay-at-home mothers is considerable) or the difficulty of the tasks they perform.

 

A mother brings a child into the world. She creates a new “world” (the home) for that child to inhabit. She is primarily responsible for the child’s first and deepest experiences of love, the quality of life in this miniature world, how the child discovers the world beyond, and the child’s development from tiny human being to mature adult. Motherhood isn’t a “tough job” so much as it is a total and loving act of recreating the universe for another human person. Motherhood is a gift of self.

 

Oscar Wilde famously defined a cynic as one “who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” A culture that assigns worth to lives based on individuals’ public roles, especially in the workplace, equates people’s personal “value” with their economic value―that is, with producing goods or services in the marketplace and how “hard” they are working to do it. This is likely because money is an age-old determinant of purchasing ability, and hence, of worldly power.

 

Because market economics has played a dominant role in shaping modern society, what people do as a profession often earns more subjective respect than what people do unpaid for family, friends, community, and strangers in need. But despite market price comparisons for many of the tasks mothers perform at home, mothers who do not work for pay bring a kind of wealth to the family and to the wider world for which an equivalent monetary price never could be determined. No price can be placed on a gift of self.

 

Women who desire―and are able―to devote themselves primarily to raising their children endow the tasks they perform on behalf of their families with a depth of meaning beyond any comparative monetary price or secular job description. British commentator G.K. Chesterton mused about this in his book What’s Wrong with the World:

 

“I can understand how [raising children] might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a [mother’s] function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute.”

 

Utilitarian value arguments tend to lose sight of the fundamental truth that human beings are valuable for their own sakes, not for what they produce in the economy or for the equivalent monetary value of their activities. Whether a mother works for pay or not, the value of her life and her children’s lives cannot be measured in economic terms. Regardless of the path a woman chooses, her dignity is always in herself and in her gift of self to others, not in society’s assessments of her labor. Likewise, a mother raising children is worthy of reverence, not because motherhood is hard, but because it is great.

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Steve Buckstein explains Oregon’s slipping economic outlook

We sat down with Cascade’s senior policy analyst, Steve Buckstein, to talk about his latest commentary describing Oregon’s falling on the Rich States, Poor States rankings.

The ranking system looks at the economic outlook for each state based on policies controlled by state legislators, not the national or world economy.

Read his commentary here.

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Oregon’s Economic Outlook Slips Again in 2012

Hit hard by the national recession, Oregon lawmakers started the regular 2011 legislative session―and then the new shorter annual 2012 session―with calls to create jobs. By the time those sessions ended,  little had been done to encourage job growth in the state. And virtually nothing was done to address the major factors that determine the state’s Economic Outlook, as identified by the national organization of fiscally conservative state legislators, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

 

Every year since 2008 ALEC has compiled and reported on the 15 policy variables influenced by state legislatures that appear to signal the economic outlook of the states. These variables are:

 

 

  • Top Marginal Personal Income Tax Rate
  • Top Marginal Corporate Income Tax Rate
  • Personal Income Tax Progressivity
  • Property Tax Burden
  • Sales Tax Burden
  • Remaining Tax Burden
  • Estate/Inheritance Tax Levied?
  • Recently Legislated Tax Changes
  • Debt Service as a Share of Tax Revenue
  • Public Employees Per 10,000 of Population
  • State Liability System Survey
  • State Minimum Wage
  • Average Workers’ Compensation Costs
  • Right-to-Work State?
  • Number of Tax Expenditure Limits

 

 

ALEC published its 2012 report, Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitive Index, in early April.

 

How does Oregon rank?* Oregon now ranks number 26 out of 50 states in its actual economic performance over the last ten years. Looking forward, however, Oregon has slipped from number 35 in 2008 to number 45 in 2012, dropping from number 43 in 2011. Our economic outlook is now worse than 44 other states, again, based on policy variables that the state legislature could change.

 

In May 2011, Rich States, Poor States authors Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore published an article in The Wall Street Journal in which they identified the two policies that “have consistently stood out as the most important in predicting where jobs will be created and incomes will rise. First, states with no income tax generally outperform high income tax states. Second, states that have right-to-work laws grow faster than states with forced unionism.”

 

How does Oregon rate on those two most important variables? The authors spent almost a full page of last year’s report discussing how damaging Oregon’s 2010 retroactive income tax increases on wealthy individuals and corporations are to the state’s economic outlook. They mentioned Cascade’s analysis of those two measures, 66 and 67, which were approved by voters in January 2010. They noted that “Oregon is tied with Hawaii now with the highest state income tax rate in the nation,” a fact likely to deter entrepreneurs and other high-income individuals from coming to Oregon and to cause some who are here already to leave. Initial results confirm what we feared: These tax measures generated far less revenue than voters were led to believe, and the state had some 8,000 fewer high-income tax-filers in the first year of these measures than the state predicted.

 

Oregon also ranks poorly on the right-to-work variable. Over time, economic growth in states with strong union protections has significantly lagged growth in states with more worker freedom. Twenty-three states have right-to-work laws which prohibit agreements between labor unions and employers that make membership or payment of union dues or fees a condition of employment, either before or after hiring. Twenty-seven states, including Oregon, require that all employees of unionized employers must become union members or pay dues to the union within a specified period of time or lose their jobs. Cascade is promoting the economic benefits of Oregon becoming a right-to-work state.

 

So, Oregon fails both important economic outlook tests: We have one of the highest income tax rates in the nation, and we require workers in unionized companies and government entities to join those unions and/or pay union dues. We also fare badly on other variables, including the fact that we continue to tax estates, and we have the second highest minimum wage in the country.

 

Again, the 15 policy variables taken into account to determine our economic outlook are all within state lawmakers’ control. Of course, there are national and international policies and conditions that are outside our control. But that is the case for every state. Oregon lawmakers must take responsibility for the factors they can control. Unfortunately, they haven’t, and our economic outlook continues to decline relative to other states.

 

Talking about creating jobs is great, but actually reducing taxes and protecting workers against forced unionization would go a lot farther in turning Oregon’s economic outlook around. Slipping from 35th to 45th since 2008 is bad enough; let’s encourage Oregon’s legislators to enact policies that will start turning that economic outlook ranking back up.

* Oregon’s 2012 Rich States, Poor States page is here:
https://cascadepolicy.org/pdf/Oregon_2012_Rich_States_Poor_States_page.pdf

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Steve Buckstein is interviewed about his latest commentary "Do You Feel Exploited by Apple?"

In his latest commentary, Do You Feel Exploited by Apple?, Steve Buckstein asked a group of students if they felt exploited by Apple after buying Apple products. They didn’t because they chose to make those purchases.

See how Steve relates this choice to a need for competition in public education.

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Do You Feel Exploited by Apple? ― Why Freedom Shouldn’t Stop at the Classroom Door

By Steve Buckstein

Many areas of our lives are being revolutionized by technology. Those changing the fastest are the ones subject primarily to market forces. Those changing the least are the ones controlled primarily by government.

How many of us communicate with others at a distance today the same way that we did twenty years ago? In 1992 we all had telephones at home, but very few of us had mobile or cell phones. In 1992 a few of us had personal computers, but very few communicated through email, and the first public web browser was still a year or so away.

The cell phone and personal computer revolutions came very fast, propelled by advancing technology and a capitalist market that promised great wealth to those who successfully met our seemingly unlimited consumer demand for such offerings. No one was forced to pay for any of this; no one was exploited by any of it, either. We gladly paid hundreds of dollars for the communications tools of the future. The collective value we gained likely outweighed the billions of dollars that entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs earned for themselves.

Now, how many of our children still get their formal education the same way they did in 1992? Virtually all of them. The public school system is owned and run by governments and paid for by tax dollars. The adults who receive those tax dollars have a huge financial interest in making sure that competition and innovation are kept to a minimum. The revolution in personal communications that has taken place over the last twenty years is barely a blip on the K-12 education scene―so far.

One man who foresaw an online education revolution was Lewis J. Perelman. In his 1992 book, School’s Out, he predicted that our brick school buildings eventually would be replaced by what he called “hyperlearning.” Remember, this was written before most of us had even seen the World Wide Web. One aspect of “hyperlearning” is today’s online charter schools―you know, the ones the teachers’ unions are so desperate to shut down.

Another aspect of “hyperlearning” is the recent advent of the non-profit Khan Academy, which now features literally thousands of online lessons about everything from basic math to physics to economics and government. All at no cost to the learners. Online. 24/7. From any computer or smart phone, anywhere in the world. Classroom teachers who aren’t fearful of such progress are embracing this new tool to help their students. But if it rises to the level of actually competing with, rather than complimenting, traditional classrooms, look for politically powerful teachers’ unions to do what they do best: act as the status quo lobby to restrict or even outlaw such competition with their dues-paying members.

Exploited by Apple?

One secret weapon in the online education revolution may be the kids themselves. Thanks to compulsory attendance laws, most of them must attend the brick school buildings closest to their homes. Last month I was invited to talk with a class of public high school juniors about the relationship between politics and economics. After laying out my case for capitalism, including how it can enhance learning through online schools, the teacher explained that he believed more in democracy and government than in the power of the marketplace. One example he used was his feeling of being exploited by Apple because until recently it only allowed him to place proprietary applications on his iPhone, thus increasing Apple’s profits. I pointed out that he was not forced to buy anything from Apple, even its phone, if he didn’t want to. There were, and are, plenty of competitors.

I explained that in a free market, when someone sells a product and another voluntarily buys it, both sides gain value. In the Apple case, for example, if he paid $200 for his iPhone, then he wanted it more than he wanted to keep his $200. Apple, on the other hand, would rather earn his $200 than keep that phone on its shelves. Both sides won. I told the students that when Steve Jobs died last year, he was worth some $7 billion, but he didn’t exploit any of his customers to earn that money. They freely bought what he had to sell.

I then asked the 30 or so students how many of them owned any Apple products, from iPods, to iPads, to iPhones. About 25 raised their hands. I asked how many of them felt exploited by Apple. Not one hand went up, and they laughed when the teacher again said that he felt exploited. That teacher has a monopoly on those students’ time every school day this year. But in an hour and a half, I was able to give them a lesson that hopefully will stay with them when they think about the benefits of capitalism versus government control of our economy―and of our education system.

Perhaps I should have suggested the students read Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman’s classic book in which he argued that economic freedom is a necessary condition for political freedom. If I am invited back I will make that suggestion, but if not, my real-world example of how they have personally benefited from capitalism may be enough to start them thinking about what is wrong with their teacher’s pro-government view, and what is right with the free market.

Steve Buckstein is Founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

Click here for the PDF version:

12-14-Do_You_Feel_Exploited_by_Apple

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Introducing the Rural Freedom Project

Check out this introduction to Cascade’s video series, the Rural Freedom Project, highlighting the search for freedom in rural Oregon.

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Renewing Labor’s Moral Sense

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gave a speech Tuesday expressing concern about Americans’ shifting attitudes toward work and government.

 

“We’re turning into a paternalistic entitlement society,” he said. “That will not just bankrupt us financially, it will bankrupt us morally….We’ll have a bunch of people sitting on a couch waiting for their next government check.”

 

The workforce participation rate for men 16-24 has dropped from 80% in the 1970’s to about 58% today. Young men, especially with less education, are increasingly opting out of the workforce, and not just due to a weak economy. An enabling factor is that with all the government entitlements available, work doesn’t seem to pay.

 

If young people, especially at the point of entry to work, lose the belief that earning a paycheck is better than drawing a benefit check, the human cost will be significant.

 

The value of human labor is deeper than its cash value. Work is an extension of the human personality. Through labor we exercise talent, creativity, and initiative. We don’t merely exchange one thing for another, we develop as persons. We participate in the act of creation.

 

None of that happens with a welfare check. For a healthy society, we must renew our moral sense of the value of labor. We must stop asking government to provide quick cash and remember that raw purchasing power isn’t the measure of man.

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Small Scholarships and Few Strings: How one venture capitalist’s K-8 education reform idea became a game-changer

Please join us for Cascade’s monthly Policy Picnic. Kathryn Hickok will be leading April’s discussion about the Children’s Scholarship Fund. The organization’s founder Ted Forstmann said the entrepreneur “inhabits a world where belief precedes results.” He applied this principle to education reform and changed the landscape of school choice in America.

Admission is free, but there is no such thing as a free lunch, so please bring your own! However, coffee and cookies will be served. Space is limited to ten guests on a first come, first served basis, so sign up early. To RSVP, email Patrick Schmitt at patrick@cascadepolicy.org or call 503-242-0900.

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Steve Buckstein talks about unions and education with Victoria Taft

Steve Buckstein appeared as a guest Monday on the Victoria Taft Show, where he discussed the growing number of union members, the potential of a Right to Work program in Oregon, and recent education reforms.

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Eric Fruits discusses how a Right to Work law would benefit Oregon

Dr. Eric Fruits, Ph.D., sits down with the Cascade Policy Institute to discuss his latest study on how a Right to Work law would be advantageous for Oregonians.

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Seattle School Board Considers Expelling Bright New Teachers from the City of Goodwill

By Liv Finne

Third grader Enrique (not his real name) eagerly describes his Teach for America teacher like this: “He let us borrow bigger books.” “I am learning English now.” “My goal is to be at fourth grade in reading by the end of the year.”

Teach for America (TFA) is a nationally recognized training program that provides highly motivated, talented teachers to schools nationwide, especially in low-income inner city communities. TFA graduates come from highly respected colleges, including Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, and the University of Washington. Studies show their students typically make more progress in reading and math compared to students of other teachers, including veteran and certified instructors.

TFA educators set high goals for their students: a clear focus on math and science, 40 minutes of reading every night, and a desire to graduate and go on to college. In the communities where its teachers work, TFA is helping children to raise their sights and reach for the stars.

Seattle-Tacoma is the only metro area in the Pacific Northwest in which Teach for America operates. Despite TFA’s nationwide track record, however, not everyone in Seattle is happy. The Washington State teachers’ union sees opening schools to TFA graduates as a threat to their power within the system. Union executives did not want TFA in Seattle in the first place, and now they are doing everything they can to drive these young instructors out of local classrooms.

In late March, the Seattle School Board members took up the issue whether to accede to the union and bar TFA teachers from city schools, or to allow them to continue educating Seattle children.

How did this happen? How did Seattle get to a point where the school board considers ousting some of the best-qualified teachers in the country where they are most needed? In October 2010, the board invited TFA to provide trained instructors for some of the most-needy schools. In response, six young TFA teachers have been working in Seattle classrooms for nearly a year, impressing administrators and parents with their energy, ability, and professionalism. Though demanding, they are popular with students and set high expectations for what they believe kids can achieve.

Then the School Board changed. In the 2011 election the teachers’ union backed two candidates, giving thousands of dollars to their political campaigns. These candidates won; and in what some see as payback, they are now spearheading the union drive to oust TFA from Seattle schools.

There’s more. The Seattle Times reported that union-inspired activists are harassing TFA teachers at Aki Kurose Middle School and South Shore K-8, hoping to get them to quit. Their personal information has been posted online. One teacher’s home was burglarized.

TFA may be stirring up the union in Seattle, but the program is considered routine in other cities. Since 1990, nearly 33,000 TFA-trained instructors have taught more than three million students. Today, 9,000 of them educate more than 600,000 students in 32 states and the District of Columbia.

 

The program is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Ironically, the Seattle-based charity eventually might find it can fund TFA educators in Philadelphia or Boston, but not at John Hay Elementary up the street from their headquarters. Over 3,000 University of Washington graduates apply to TFA each year. Why can’t these UW grads find a welcome at schools in their own city?

On March 21, the Seattle School Board voted 4-3 in a packed public hearing to keep the school district’s partnership with Teach for America for now. According to The Seattle Times, the board member considered the “swing vote” said she did not want to limit a program which some principals wanted, noting that participation is their choice.

In the end, the Seattle School Board was right to allow principals to choose if they want to hire TFA teachers. Schools exist to teach students, not to benefit a union. Children should be free to learn from high-achieving, motivated, effective teachers; and principals should be able to hire the best teachers available. Banning Teach for America from a school district won’t harm the adults involved―TFA teachers would just move to schools in other cities. The real harm from the reactionary and mean-spirited campaign in Seattle falls on kids like Enrique, all because some grownups think protecting their privileged status is more important than helping children learn.


Liv Finne is Director of Washington Policy Center’s Center for Education and serves on the Education Task Force of the American Legislative Exchange Council. She holds a law degree from Boston University School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wellesley College. Liv is a guest contributor for Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research center.

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With Low WES Ridership, the “Next Big Thing” May Be Raising Fares

Three years ago, TriMet began operating its first heavy rail line, the Westside Express Service (WES). This line runs from Beaverton to Wilsonville during commuting hours on weekdays.

 

WES was trumpeted as the “next big thing,” but opening year ridership averaged only 1,156 boardings per day, less than half the 2,500 predicted by TriMet. The agency lost nearly $24 on each trip.

 

TriMet just finished its third full year of operation for WES. Average daily ridership is up to 1,571 boardings, but each trip still requires a subsidy of $18. This is eight times higher than the subsidy needed for the average TriMet trip and costs taxpayers $7.4 million each year.

 

WES turned out to be a disaster, but no one at TriMet is accepting responsibility. Agency management simply plans to raise passenger fares again, and they also will be raising taxes on businesses.

 

TriMet board members are not elected, so we cannot demand a management change at the ballot box. But the board is appointed by the Governor, who is elected. It’s time for the Governor to demand better performance from his political appointees.

 

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Victoria Taft interviews John Charles on libraries, public toilets, and biogas

Cascade’s President John Charles talks with radio host Victoria Taft about the Multnomah County Library bond measure, Portland’s public toilets, and a city backed compost biogas plant.

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