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Friday, February 15, 2019

Economic Value of Liberal Arts

Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Ed:
You've read the stories about liberal arts college grads doomed to a life of poverty, paying back their student loans while living in their parents' basement. And if you've been reading Inside Higher Ed, you have read about studies questioning that narrative.
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has now released a new analysis by two economists that examines the questions of the economic payoff of a liberal arts college education. The study makes no claims that liberal arts grads outearn those in, say, engineering. But the report says the claims that a liberal arts degree isn't worth its cost or will hurt a graduate's career prospects prove untrue. Specifically, the report says attending a liberal arts college for most students leads to meaningful economic mobility.
"Critics claim that a liberal arts education is worth less than the alternatives, and perhaps not even worth the investment at all. They argue that increasing costs and low future earnings limit the value of a liberal arts education, especially compared to alternative options such as pre-professional programs that appear to be better rewarded in the current labor market," says the report. "Existing evidence does not support these conclusions."
The report's authors -- Catharine B. Hill and Elizabeth Davidson Pisacreta -- are both at Ithaka S+R, which conducts extensive research on the economics of higher education. Hill is a former president of Vassar College.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Motion to Recommit

At Politico, Heather Caygle and Sarah Ferris report:
House Democrats have repeatedly faced surprise Republican floor attacks since taking control of the chamber, part of a bid by the GOP to target their most vulnerable members and fracture the party. Just six weeks in, the GOP effort has been an astonishing success — dividing Pelosi and her top deputies and pitting members of the freshmen class against each other.
At issue is a wonky procedural tactic that Republicans have weaponized to split Democrats on a range of thorny issues, from sexual abuse to anti-terrorism funding. Roughly two dozen Democrats have so far bucked their party and sided with Republicans on the votes, which offer the House minority one last chance to shape legislation on the floor.
As the GOP continues to peel off rank-and-file Democrats, party leaders have grown alarmed — and are increasingly engaged in finger-pointing about who is to blame for the disunity and what to do about it, according to interviews with nearly two dozen Democratic lawmakers and aides.
Freshmen Democrats in swing districts say they have no plan to stop voting with the GOP when they feel the need. They’ve even been given the blessing to do so by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), despite resistance from Pelosi.
“Clearly you’re doing this as a ploy and not because you actually give a shit about the issue,” freshman Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) said of House Republicans. “It makes it hard for those of us who do vote against the [GOP proposals], who are in similarly tough districts.”
Republicans have forced more than a dozen of these votes — known as a motion to recommit — on the House floor since January, with increasing numbers of Democrats voting for them each time.
GOP leaders scored their biggest victory yet with the maneuver on Wednesday after a dramatic moment on the floor in which Democrats were forced to add language condemning anti-Semitism to an unrelated bill. Eager to project unity, all Democrats voted for it — the first time since 2010 a motion to recommit was approved by the House.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

How Newspapers Starve: the Liquidation Strategy

Jonathan O'Connell and Emma Brown at WP write that Twenty Lake Holdings LLC bought the building housing  the Memphis Commercial Appeal
But Twenty Lake Holdings is not just another commercial real estate investor. It is a subsidiary of Alden Global Capital, the New York City hedge fund that backed the purchase of and dramatic cost-cutting at more than 100 newspapers — causing more than 1,000 lost jobs.
For Alden and its subsidiary, the Gannett empire’s newspapers are clearly an attractive feature. But by purchasing the Memphis building and others like it, Alden has already begun coming for what it may consider a bigger prize: Gannett’s real estate.

The hedge fund’s newspaper business, Digital First Media, is bidding to buy Gannett, operator of the nation’s largest chain of daily newspapers by circulation, including USA Today — as well as its $900 million in remaining property and equipment — for more than $1.3 billion.
The tactics employed by Alden and Digital First Media are well-chronicled: They buy newspapers already in financial distress, including big-city dailies such as the San Jose Mercury News and the Denver Post, reap the cash flow and lay off editors, reporters and photographers to boost profits.
In a 2018 court case, Alden disclosed it has a series of affiliated real estate companies whose business is focused primarily on efficiently buying, selling, leasing and redeveloping newspapers’ offices and printing plants.
James Angel, associate professor of finance in the Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, said other investment firms have used a similar strategy to mon­etize industries in decline.
“Alden is doing what I would call a pure liquidation strategy — which is, ‘no new investment and sell off what you can while you can,’ ” he said.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Happy Darwin Day

Today is Darwin's 210th birthday. David Masci reports at Pew:
Roughly eight-in-ten U.S. adults (81%) say humans have evolved over time, according to data from a new Pew Research Center study. This includes one-third of all Americans (33%) who say that humans evolved due to processes like natural selection with no involvement by God or a higher power, along with 48% who believe human evolution occurred through processes guided or allowed by God or a higher power. The same survey found that 18% of Americans reject evolution entirely, saying humans have always existed in their present form. (See the full report for a deeper look at the ways question wording and format can affect survey results on evolution.)

Around four-in-ten white evangelical Protestants (38%) say humans have always existed in their present form, and about a quarter (27%) of black Protestants share this view, according to the new study. Among white mainline Protestants, just 16% say humans have always existed in their present form. Similar shares of Catholics (13%) and the religiously unaffiliated (11%) say the same. Only among the religiously unaffiliated – those who describe their religion as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – do a majority (64%) accept evolution via natural selection with no involvement from God or a higher power. Both Protestants and Catholics are considerably more likely to say evolution was guided or allowed by God than they are to say that humans evolved due to processes such as natural selection, or to say that humans have always existed in their present form.
In Latin America, for example, roughly four-in-ten or more residents of several countries – including Ecuador, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic – say humans and other living things have always existed in their present form. This is true even though the official teachings of Catholicism, which is the majority religion in the region, do not reject evolution. In Central and Eastern Europe, evolution is broadly accepted, but roughly half or more of adults in two countries – Armenia and Bosnia – reject it. Meanwhile, Muslims in many nations are divided on the topic, although majorities of Muslims in countries such as Afghanistan, Indonesia and Iraq reject evolution.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Polarized Legislatures

Timothy Williams at NYT:
Republicans continue to hold majorities in most of the nation’s state capitals, as they have in recent years, but Democrats now control six new legislative chambers, including the Minnesota House of Representatives. Along the way, though, Minnesota — where Republicans hold a narrow majority in the Senate — became the only remaining state in the nation where control of a legislature is divided.

Even in an era of single-party dominance in state legislatures, it is a stunning notion: It is the first time in more than a century that only one state has split control of its legislative chambers, and is one more indication of the depth of the nation’s bifurcated political sensibilities.
In the opening days, Democrats who have vaulted to positions of full control in their legislatures (Colorado, New Hampshire and New York), achieved parity (Minnesota), or solidified their power (California, Nevada and New Mexico, among others) have wasted little time.

In New Hampshire, one of 18 state legislatures controlled by Democrats after both of its legislative chambers flipped in 2018, lawmakers have already banned firearms in the House chamber over the objections of Republicans, and have voted to require every lawmaker to undergo sexual harassment awareness training. Up next, the Democrats say: a family medical leave bill.
In New York, where Democrats won full control of the Legislature, lawmakers have approved a bill that offers undocumented students access to state financial aid and scholarships and another that expands protections for the state’s abortion laws.
In Colorado, where Democrats took the Senate and already controlled the House, lawmakers have introduced bills to expand access to affordable health care, allow the importation of prescription drugs from Canada, and give 100 teachers as much as $5,000 a year each to help pay off college loans.

From NCSL:

 After legislative elections on Tuesday, Nov. 6, five legislative chambers flipped from Republican to Democratic. Democrats also took control of the tied Connecticut Senate and fully functional control of the New York Senate—it was a Democratic sweep. However, compared to past midterms, the gains were modest with Republicans maintaining a robust position in state legislatures.

Pre/post ElectionPre/post ElectionPre/post Election
Chambers (98 total)65 / 6131 / 37 tied: 2 / 0
Legislatures (49 total)31 / 30 14 / 18 
4 / 1
State Control
(49 total, 1 undecided)
25 / 21 8 / 14 
16 / 13

The big news is that Minnesota is the only state in the nation where the legislature is divided—the Senate remains in Republican control, and the House flipped to the Democrats. The last time there was only one divided state legislature was over 100 years ago in 1914.
Six legislative chambers flipped from Republicans to Democrats.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Most Expensive Midterm

From Open Secrets:
It’s official: the 2018 election was the most expensive midterm ever by a large margin, with total spending surpassing $5.7 billion, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
The final tally surpasses the conservative $5.2 billion projection the Center released in October.
With more than $5.7 billion shelled out by candidates, parties, committees, PACs and outside groups, the 2018 midterm leapfrogs even the then-record breaking 2008 presidential election which saw nearly $5.3 billion in total spending. It also smashes the previous midterm spending record of $3.8 billion in 2014.
“Just as the 2018 elections brought historic wins for a more diverse group of candidates, they also saw greater spending than we’ve ever seen or anticipated for a midterm election, capitalizing on years of loosened campaign finance regulation and oversight,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Racial and Ethnic Diversity on Capitol Hill

Kristen Bialik at Pew:
More than one-in-five voting members (22%) of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate are racial or ethnic minorities, making the 116th Congress the most racially and ethnically diverse in history. There has been a long-running trend toward more racial and ethnic diversity on Capitol Hill: Each of the previous four Congresses broke the record set by the Congress before it.
Overall, 116 lawmakers today are nonwhite (including blacks, Hispanics, Asians/Pacific Islanders and Native Americans), according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Congressional Research Service. This represents an 84% increase over the 107th Congress of 2001-03, which had 63 minority members.

 Growing racial and ethnic diversity in Congress