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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Federal Workforce Problems

Chloe Booth and Kevin R. Kosar write at RealClearPolicy:
The Survey on the Future of Government Service, released last week by Vanderbilt University's Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, reveals significant problems with the federal workforce. According to the data, collected from 3,551 federal executives, the civil service is struggling to recruit and retain America's best and brightest — and agencies are plagued by underperforming employees who are difficult to fire.

We have seen the by-products of this malfunctioning personnel system for years. The Department of Veterans Affairs has lurched from one crisis to another. Government-wide improper payments reached a new height of $124.7 billion in 2014, fueled by mistakes made by the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Treasury. The General Services Administration, for its part, is unable to provide a correct inventory of the number of federal properties, let alone unload the unneeded ones.
Even if agencies streamlined recruitment, they still would be stuck with low-performing employees who are nearly impossible to dismiss. Some 64 percent of respondents said subpar managers are rarely (if ever) dismissed, and 70 percent said the same for non-managers. Private companies face far fewer obstacles, with 52 percent of private-sector executives surveyed saying non-managers could be reassigned or dismissed within six months. Only 4 percent of public-sector executives said the same.)

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Wage Gap

Nelson D. Schwartz reports at The New York Times:
For the first time since the economic recovery began six years ago, white-collar professionals with specialized skills in fields like technology, finance, engineering and software find themselves in the catbird seat.
But despite the steady addition of more than 200,000 jobs a month and a decline in the official jobless rate to a postrecession low of 5.3 percent, most American workers, including many college graduates, still face lukewarm wage growth at best and very limited bargaining power with bosses.
Strikingly, this feast-or-famine pattern does not simply pit people with less than a college degree against their more highly educated peers. It is also pronounced even within the 32 percent of American workers who are college graduates.
Since the beginning of 2014, median wages for all holders of a bachelor’s degree or more have risen 2.7 percent, compared with about 2 percent for all workers. Among the top 10 percent of earners holding college degrees, however, wages are up more than 6 percent.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Housing in San Francisco

Why is housing so expensive in San Francisco?  At CityLab, Gabriel Metcalf blames "progressive" no-growth policies:
When San Francisco should have been building at least 5,000 new housing units a year to deal with the growing demand to live here, it instead averaged only about 1,500 a year over the course of several decades. In a world where we have the ability to control the supply of housing locally, but people still have the freedom to move where they want, all of this has played out in predictable ways.
Many cities faced the same set of dilemmas. But San Francisco’s challenge has been harder for the reason that our regional economy has been so strong. Regardless of what happened inside the city limits, we have had the most powerful engine of job creation in the country just a half hour to the south (a commute time that increases with economic growth). Over time, many of Silicon Valley’s workers have come to call San Francisco home. Moreover, in contrast to New York, San Francisco does not have a massive network of regional public transit connecting hundreds of different high-density, walkable communities to the city. In fact, neighborhoods that foster urban life and convenience are tremendously scarce in the Bay Area. All of this means the pressure on San Francisco has proven to be even greater than other cities in the country.
Regardless of these realities, most San Francisco progressives chose to stick with their familiar stance of opposing new development, positioning themselves as defenders of the city’s physical character. Instead of forming a pro-growth coalition with business and labor, most of the San Francisco Left made an enduring alliance with home-owning NIMBYs. It became one of the peculiar features of San Francisco that exclusionary housing politics got labeled “progressive.” (Organized labor remained a major political force throughout this time period, and has allied with both pro-growth and anti-growth forces, depending on the issue.) Over the years, these anti-development sentiments were translated into restrictive zoning, the most cumbersome planning and building approval process in the country, and all kinds of laws and rules that make it uniquely difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to add housing in San Francisco.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Amazing Grace

Landon Jones reports at Time:

Carl Cannon writes at RealClearPolitics:
Although John Newton’s birthday was July 24, 1725, after he turned 23 the day that meant more to him was his “rebirth,” March 21, 1748. That was the day he rediscovered his faith. He gave up drinking and swearing and carousing, and began to study for the ministry.
In the early 1760s, he was assigned a church. In the early 1770s, he sat down at a desk in his attic and penned these words:
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
Fully accepting the implications of faith took a long time. What I mean by that is that even after becoming a Christian, Newton transported slaves as a sea captain for many years.
Even after writing “Amazing Grace,” which would become an anthem of liberation for slaves America, it was more than another decade before Newton announced his opposition to slavery and joined forces in London with William Wilberforce.
This lag time is often airbrushed out of the story by modern day evangelicals. This defensiveness is understandable, but it doesn’t make John Newton’s faith journey any less remarkable.
“Newton did eventually grow into his conversion, so that by the end of his days he actually was the godly man one would expect to have penned ‘Amazing Grace,’” writer Barbara Mikkelson once noted.
“But it was a slow process effected over the passage of decades, not something that happened with a clap of thunder and a flash of lightning,” she added. “In Newton's case, the ‘amazing grace’ he wrote of might well have referred to God’s unending patience with him.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Zoning v. Economic Opportunity

Ilya Somin writes at The Washington Post:
In a recent study for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, economist Steven Horwitz points out that restrictive zoning laws impede social mobility by making it difficult or impossible for the working class and poor to establish home-based small businesses...

This is just one of several ways in which restrictive zoning policies harm the poor. An even more significant one is the way in which restrictions on new development artificially inflate the price of housing in many cities, thereby pricing many of the poor and working class out of the market. Economists have been criticizing such policies for many years. It isn’t just libertarians and free market advocates like Horwitz and Edward Glaeser of Harvard. Leading left-wing economists and policy analysts, such as Paul Krugman and Matthew Yglesias, have decried restrictive zoning as well. In some of the most desirable coastal cities, zoning inflates the price of housing by as much as 50 percent. When the poor are priced out ofthe housing market, they lose not only the housing itself, but the opportunity to seek out employment opportunities in the areas in question.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Corporate Grassroots Lobbying

Patrick Slevin writes:
Corporate grassroots lobbying has led to an estimated $1 billion-a-year industry and it’s growing. In today’s political and social environments, an increasing number of C-Suite executives have realized they need more than big PAC checks and high-powered lobbyists to achieve their public affairs strategies.
Corporate grassroots lobbying is rapidly augmenting direct lobbying. According to a recent study, firms that cater to corporate clients to help promote their image and build and mobilize community coalitions are also more likely to provide direct lobbying services. More than 43 percent of grassroots lobbying firms are now providing some level of government affairs representation.

Monday, July 27, 2015


Courtney Such reports at RealClearPolicy:
The age of technology may be upon us, but not all are convinced we should cast our votes online. The Heritage Foundation has released a paper, "The Dangers of Internet Voting," chronicling other countries' experiences with online voting and arguing that America is not ready for it. 
We talked with Hans von Spakovsky, the paper's author, to learn more. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The problem with Internet voting is kind of inherent in the technology itself. Hardware, software, and computer scientists almost overwhelmingly say there's almost nothing that can be done giving the current state of the technology — the way the Internet is designed — to actually make a safe system. Those risks way outweigh any possibility that it might increase turnout, and actually, there's evidence from some other countries that have actually tried Internet voting that it doesn't really increase voter turnout. It just makes it easier for people who would vote anyway to cast their ballot, but it does it at a much greater risk.

Everyone knows very well the huge breaches of security we just had with not only the Office of Personal Management, but now the IRSI. It was suspected in the OPM breach that this was part of a special team that the Chinese government set up some years ago. There have been a number of newspaper rticles that have talked about this — how professional hackers are being used by the Chinese government. This kind of system in a U.S. election would be a prime target, not just for individual hackers, but for a government trying to get into the system to manipulate elections.
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