Two public schools in Manhattan illustrate the high stakes of a political choice that the nation, and many states and municipalities, must reconsider. In 2019, Success Academy Harlem 2 charter school ranked 37th among New York state’s 2,413 public elementary schools, one of which, PS 30, had only about a third as many pupils as Harlem 2, spent twice as much per pupil and ranked 1,694th. PS 30 and Harlem 2 operate in the same building.
The contract for PS 30’s unionized teachers is 167 pages long, mostly detailing job protections, and what teachers can and cannot be required to do. The contract for Harlem 2’s nonunion teachers is one page long. Those teachers can be fired at will, and are paid 5 to 10 percent more than PS 30 teachers on the other side of the building.
Particularly at the state and local levels (e.g., school board elections), public employees wield union power to elect their employers, who reciprocate with contracts containing labyrinthine job protections. A 2011 book reported that over an 18-year period, just about two of Illinois’ 95,000 teachers were dismissed annually for unsatisfactory work. Because California’s 300,000 teachers are unionized, [Philip] Howard says, two or three a year are terminated for performing poorly. Consider this from a pro-union blog: “We don’t need to swap out all the bad and mediocre teachers for better teachers, any more than we should swap out our struggling students for more advanced students.”
Public employee unions dictate rules for government with a beyond-satire granularity: Why was paint flaking off the top of the walls in New York City schools? Howard: “The union contract only allowed custodians to paint up to ten feet; any higher and the school would have to pay extra to hire a member of the painters’ union to complete the work.”
Meanwhile, interest payments on the national debt are another fast-growing mandatory-spending component of the federal budget. Altogether, mandatory spending on entitlements and interest payments accounts for over 70 percent of the budget and is projected to consume more than 80 percent by 2040. Legislators barely have a say over such payments, even though these increasingly dominate the budget.
There may be some downsides to having an 80-year-old running the country. But among the benefits ought to be wisdom, an understanding of history and a focus on the legacy that will be left for future generations. Right now America’s children need President Joe Biden’s leadership in addressing the country’s massive and rapidly rising debt burden. Yet on Tuesday night the president clarified that he has no intention of providing it. Mr. Biden is so committed to rejecting Republicans’ efforts to restrain spending that in his State of the Union address he spent time attacking reforms they’re not even proposing.
It would be one thing if Mr. Biden were attempting to make an economic case that the government can finance massive annual deficits forever without consequence—or that the numbers published by his Treasury and the Congressional Budget Office are wrong. But he’s simply ignoring the problem and rejecting even the idea of discussing spending reforms as he seeks congressional approval for more borrowing.
The benefit of trade, whether domestic or foreign trade, is that buyers can get their products (and services) from the least costly source. I leave it as an exercise for my reader (especially if he is an economics student) to persuade himself that imports are more important than exports. Interestingly, this belief should be more prevalent among protectionist conservatives, who should not want “our national resources” to be used to produce goods and services for foreigners instead of for “us.” But protectionists are not known for their logic; you may want to have a look at my Regulation article “Logic, Economics, and Protectionist Nationalism.”
Colleges are some of the last places requiring vaccination — even boosters, in some instances, like at Fordham University. These young adults are least at risk from covid, most at risk from vaccine-induced myocarditis and are some of the last Americans required to be boosted. It makes no sense.
Politicians kept schools closed, not COVID.