Sunday, January 25, 2015

Are the Benefits Short-Term?

The question that came to mind after reading the article was whether mentoring programs improve the life opportunities of at-risk youth because the summer jobs programs seems like a mentoring program. I believe the effects of such a mentoring program has mostly positive effects, but I believe those effects can be modest and evaporating over time. The program brings to mind mentoring programs such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, which does seem to have a positive impact on at-risk youth. I do believe the summer jobs program is a great idea and that it benefits the youth, but I wonder what happens to the youth after they move on from the program. Knowledge of the effectiveness of these new mentoring programs is incomplete because many emerged in recent years. Some idea may sound great, but there are many factors that need to be considered when evaluating such programs. The program does not seem to target academic performance of the youth, which I believe should be the main goal. Training people to work entry-level jobs that pay at minimum wage is one thing, but helping that same youth enter high-paying professions that require advanced degrees is an entirely different matter. I do understand that the summer jobs must be a great short to medium-term solution for many at-risk youth, but the solution should rather be long-term. I went across some research online to see whether such mentoring programs are more effective in the short or long-term and it appears that most research points towards them having modest and short-term benefits. If researchers believe that such programs have their effects fade over time then why aren't we looking for a long-term solution? I believe the long-term solution would be helping the at-risk youth receive more education. Of course the program is beneficial to much at-risk youth, but helping them have jobs means other youth may not gain employment in some cases. Maybe that is not true, so much more research must be done before certain conclusions can be made. If there is evidence that the summer jobs program increases the chances that youth pursues  post-secondary education then that would be significant. Otherwise, I believe there may be other programs out there or that can be created to produce a more long-lasting effect.

Would Alternatives to Summer Work be as Effective for At-Risk Youth?


     In the article  "Chicago gave hundreds of high-risk kids a summer job..." by Emily Badger discussed the study where high-risks kids were given jobs over the summer and the relationship between the violent crimes by the kids in the program and the control group. The findings were positive showing that even after the 8 week program was over the rate of violent crime was decreased.
        This type of study is almost a "Duh of course it works" but as many things it needs to be tested before any conclusions are made. I believe there are several reasons that the programs have worked. The first being the social implications of having a job. You aren't percieved as a lowlife when you are gainfully employed and working to better your position. I feel this has a huge impact on how a person carries themselves. It's easier to believe that you aren't the type of person to commit violent crimes if everyone else believes it as well.
     Despite many of the benifits for youth I thought of some potential negative side effects that this programs could have that would make businesses reluctant to participate. I'm speaking about the fact  that these people are hired for the fact that they are "at risk" as opposed to how well they have performed at previous jobs or how they present themselves in an interview. This could lead to the situation where they aren't good workers and need babysitting to perform basic tasks in their job description.
      After reading the article I believe that the program is very beneficial but it left me with questions. Would other programs that take youths off the streets and allow them to be productive with their time give the same benefits? I believe so but it is possible that the small amount of additional income they are bringing into their household has enough of an effect so that their parents are more able to provide for them. One fact that makes me think that other programs would be effective is that the at risk youths involved in the program were all provided a mentor. I believe this mentor had a huge impact on the youths as it provides a positive role model for them to follow while on the job and after they were done. Having an alternative to summer work removes the risks that businesses take on from the high-risk youth while potentially still providing the same benefits that the work programs provide.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Drinking the Kool-Aid

Overall, I agree with many points in the article, but the Libertarian Party would need to gain much-needed popularity before their calls would be taken more seriously. It does appear that the article has good intentions for the nation when it comes to increasing overall wealth, but downsizing the federal government to only a tenth of its present size may face great pressures. Much in the article sounds like a great idea, but making such great changes would require many years, if not decades. Simply firing most government employees does not seem like a good solution. This raises a question whether they actually know how much government spending is enough. 10 percent of current spending is a very small budget for such a large and wealthy country. I understand we have a great amount of government spending, but cutting the budget that much does not seem to be reasonable. Such a great claim that the government spending should be cut to a tenth requires great evidence to be taken seriously by me. I do understand that federal and state spending amounting to about a third of the GDP is high, but what ratio of government spending is ideal for the U.S.? This question raises many debates, but the article answers that question with very radically. What began as attempting to discourage the use of the term "government shutdown" ended with claims that the federal government should nearly disappear from our lives. Can the article focus on point without going all over the place? There was not enough evidence presented for me to be just "Drinking the Kool-Aid" and simply ignoring reality. 

Alternative Explanation

The article cites Jeffrey Dorfman's article to claim that there was no $24 billion loss for the U.S. economy. Dorfman's disputation of the $24 billion loss that S&P claims is weak. Dorfman states that he can't find any evidence for the number, then admits towards the end of his article that places where the economy is growing to to match the losses in places that the economy is shrinking can be "difficult" to find evidence of, despite evidence of the failing businesses being not only apparent but rampant.

The article relies on the idea of a "government shutdown" not really being a "government shutdown" until there is a tangible affect on the private sector's growth in a negative direction. If the economy is shrinking by $24 billion (which is certainly effecting the economy in a tangible way) then we can determine the conclusion of the article is false (or at least not supported). I'm not convinced that a "government shutdown" really is a "government slowdown".

Monday, December 1, 2014

Immigration

In the article "Immigration Reform 2014: Economic Impact of Obama Helping Immigrants Includes More Jobs, Tax Revenue" by Morgan Winsor the topic of Obama's new immigration policies is discussed. Some of the common arguments against immigration from an economic side are that immigration places a heavy burden on schools, social welfare systems, overpopulation, and scarce resources. The article in question argues these against these points by proposing the fact that instead the incoming pool of immigrants would be a boon to the local economies in the form of increased jobs, increased labor income and increased tax revenues. It also brought up the fact that if these same immigrants were removed from their new homes in america the states would lose significant revenue and tax flow. What does SWEET think?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Nation of Immigrants

The U.S. population was almost entirely the result of immigration that occurred throughout many decades and centuries, so this country is essentially built by immigrants that began to call themselves Americans. Still, there is a heating political battle over immigration, especially because of terrorism, the drug war, and the national debt. Even though much attention has been provided to illegal immigration it appears that less was paid to legal immigration, and I view that as a problem. There are many who have drastically different views on the solution to the problem. I do not believe any solutions should be labeled as as strictly Liberal or Conservative because both sides constantly argue on how to approach the situation. However, the is little agreement in Congress between both sides as they fight political battles against each other, largely for monetary gain or self-interest. I believe the level of legal immigration should be increased and the illegal immigrants that lived in the U.S. for many years should be given a clear path to citizenship. I fail to understand why someone that may have lived in the country for many years should not be given the right to vote when they do not plan to leave the country and have so much interest in the nation's success. Obviously, allowing all the illegal immigrants a right to vote would significantly shift the political landscape, especially in political powerhouses like Texas, but I view that as a positive development for democracy when millions of people living in the country cannot vote today. I believe that immigration is great for the country to grow economically, culturally, demographically, and in general as it would increase the nation's decreasing weight on the world stage. I believe the nation's image would improve drastically on the international stage with more viewing America as an open and welcoming country. The labor force would increase and those struggling financially would finally get a chance for a better life, and this is important considering the country was built on immigrants and by immigrants. Still, other countries would lose their top intellectuals to America and less-skilled Americans may have fewer job opportunities with increased competition in the job market, but I view competition as a positive development that can decrease complacency of those without skills to encourage them to acquire valuable skills for the job market. There are many other factors to consider that I would rather leave for the Wednesday discussion. 

Immigration

As a believer in free markets I believe that free exchange of one's labor and being able to travel unhindered will, in a free market, promote wealth. In our society there is enough subsidization that this is not the case. In a free market you have the motivation of wealth (or at least survival) to be productive; In the United States survival is rarely a motivation we encounter (I imagine the obsession with apocalypse scenarios is spawned from our innate desire to need to survive). Wealth, too, is becoming less of a motivation for productivity.

In this sort of society, those who are productive are drained to support those who are not productive. The end result is a decline in productivity and thereby a decrease in wealth.

I support freedom of travel, though. It will likely accelerate a descent into economic decay but that's OK because it was bound to happen anyway.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Privatize or Increase Age of Eligibility?

What should we do about social security? There are many answers to this question that, in my opinion, tend to center on whether social security should be privatized or to increase the age of beginning eligibility. Some benefits to privatization would be the stock value getting an increase in value with billions of dollars being injected into corporate investment, which can be an economic stimulus. However, poor portfolio management can leave many retirees much worse off and the transition costs would be tremendous, which would drastically increase the deficit. Still, good portfolio management can be arise for many in historically safe long-term portfolios diversified from unsystematic or diversifiable risk, but there would still be systemic or nondiversifiable risk caused by the market. This means personal responsibility and ownership would be created for citizens' retirement, which means they would have a personal stake in the nation's economy and it could cause for benefit cuts that are believed to be inevitable without raising the age of eligibility. Also, it would allow for many in poverty to have a chance for a wealthy retirement, but the market risk could leave very large numbers of retirees in a bad financial situation if they happen to retire when there is an economic downturn they weren't protected from. Furthermore, there are less complicated corrections available to social security and the privatizing the system would take money away from an already underfunded system when current IRA's and 401K's offer practically the same benefits as private social security accounts. Thus, what should be done can depend on one's political, economic, or ideological beliefs that are definitely not universal. The question of what should be done is still not answered in my mind because I would want to see further research into the issue with concrete parameters discussed.

How to Change Social Security



Reading the article "The Social Security Myth" by Nick Newel the idea of the inadequacy and wastefulness of social security is explored. Nick states that “The SI (Old-Age and Survivors Insurance) program is in no sense a federally-administered “insurance program” under which each worker pays premiums over the years and acquires at retirement an indefeasible right to receive for life a fixed monthly benefit, irrespective of the conditions which Congress has chosen to impose from time to time” which is so counter to what you would have been led to believe Social Security is there for.

A significant reason that Social Security has remained in place and continued to increase in premiums is that a large majority of the political power - the elderly - are the ones voting for policy change. In the instance where they directly benefit from the increase in premiums on the younger generations they have no incentive to change the direction of their votes.

At this point in time looking towards the future and future generations is it feasible to think that we can continue to raise the costs of social security to benefit us once we retire? To me it seems like a economic policy destined for failure in that eventually the premiums will become too large to bear. What changes could be made to reroute the direction Social Security is going in? Is there any hope that changes in policy could make Social Security a worthwhile endeavor?



Social Insecurity

The system was supposed to be a service in which the qualifying parties paid into. Then if became used for welfare. This has lead to the funding of the welfare of mentally disabled people, and those that are of retirement age that may not have paid into the social security system. The problem with the system is that there was too much money in there for a debt ridden government such as the USA. The misapplication of funds was legally bound in the fine print. The government isn't always honest, therefore people will suffer. I do believe it is unfair to the potential recipient who has paid their dues and got shafted on the deal. I do believe that welfare helps people, but social security was not meant to be the way it is. I think if you were born after the 1970's your chances of receiving the retirement fund are very slim. Taking THE GOVERNMENT TO COURT SHOULD HAPPEN MORE OFTEN. There is a serious opportunity cost being thrusted upon the tax-payers. This is because people could have saved their money privately or in a trust fund. guaranteeing them benefits. however its like a raffle where everyone is buying tickets, but not everyone will win. The negative externality is that elders who have no family around are living in poverty, limited mobility, and no one is assisting them. The independence and safekeeping in which they invested can and in some cases, has dissipated. The system sounded great, but the reality has left people without a way to live after their dues to society and to the social security fund have been paid.

The Social Security Myth

Its obvious that Social Security is broken and a drain on our productivity and efficiency as a society. What to do about it? I argue that immediately eliminating it completely would be a fine method of handling the situation if carried to term, but the fallout would be so extreme that political intervention would stop a recovery from occurring.

The next best option, then, is to phase it out at the fastest rate possible while not being extreme enough to incite political intervention. To this end, I look at a special case study provided by Chile, in which that exact thing has happened.


from http://www.freedomworks.org/content/chilean-model-social-security

Entering into the work force, workers were given a private pension fund that requires them to contribute 10 to 20 percent of their income. The amount put into the fund depends on the age the employee wants to retire. At retirement, the private fund is transferred into an annuity with an insurance company. The individual is given the choice to decide what insurance company to work with and what plan best fits the circumstances. If the individual is not satisfied with the company or plan, they have the freedom to change companies. This also allows competition between insurance companies, which would lead to better service and greater returns over time.

For those who were already paying into the public system, they were given a choice to stay public or to enter the private system. The major cost created by the transition is the money Chile loses from the people switching to the private system. The cost was financed by the selling of state-owned enterprises that would provide for those who stayed on the public pension system. Due to the success of the privatization, around 93 percent Chilean workers switched to the new program. The public pension program will be completely eliminated the day the last person in the system passes away.

The effects of the program model include generating surpluses without raising taxes, inflation, or interest rates; Old-age pensions are 40-50 percent higher than the public pension system; Disability and survivor pensions are 70-100 percent higher than the public pension system; There has been a significant decrease in the payroll taxes have contributing to an unemployment rate below 5%; Savings rates have sky rocketed and have deepened investment; Growth rates have more than doubled in the past 10 years.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Environmental Victory

I believe the law is an environmental victory for the state of California, and it's an especially significant victory for a state making up 12 percent of the nation's population. The fact that the law was passed in such a large state will have a very significant environmental impact for the planet. Plastic is very chemically stable, and the fact that nearly all bags are not made of biodegradable material by being plastic means the law should have a significant impact on the oceans being polluted with plastic that does not decompose. Marine life, in my opinion, will be the prime beneficiary of the environmentally-friendly law. Too much plastic ends up being thrown into the oceans and it is very costly to clean up the mess, so the measure might end up saving future generations an immense amount of money if the world will ever decide to clean up the oceans. Furthermore, the opinion of plastic bag manufacturers is very biased because they profit directly from such laws not being passed, so it's a significant environmental victory that such a law was passed over the lobbyists of the plastic industry, which is very large multi-billion dollar industry that holds immense political influence. If anyone thinks plastic bags are good they should simply see what the Great Pacific garbage patch is to see what the true environmental impact of plastic particles is on the fragile environment of our planet.