But first . . .

Did you see the op-ed in last Thursday’s New York Times calling for a $500 “dividend” for every man, woman and child in America instead of a tax cut? Richard Freeman, a Harvard economics professor, and Eileen Applebaum, research director at the Economic Policy Institute, note that a tax cut – inevitably a complicated and hotly disputed piece of legislation – would take a long time to enact and then kick in, coming too late to avert a possible recession. This one-time $140 billion dividend could be effective right away. And being a one-shot, it would cut into our projected surplus, and deflect our deficit-reduction trajectory, just once. That’s a great thing, because paying down the national debt is a lot more prudent course than cutting taxes – and will provide a terrific ‘tax cut’ all its own. Namely: low mortgage rates, low car loan rates, low rates for small and large business borrowers, a strong economy, and a strong dollar that keeps consumer prices low (especially stuff we buy from abroad, like your TiVo). A one-shot dividend doesn’t rule out some kind of ongoing tax cut. But what a great, democratic (small d) idea. A dividend! I like this so much, I think I’ll repeat it all week.

Dana Dlott: ‘Tax cuts and dividends are fundamentally different. A tax cut stimulates production and consumption. A dividend stimulates consumption. No incentives to work harder or invest more. A tax cut goes to people who are working hard to make money. It sends a message: work hard and the government won’t take as much of your money. A dividend goes to whomever Congress designates. It sends a message: Wheeee! Here’s free stuff courtesy of your government.’

☞ Good points, but I still like it. I think if most of us were incented to work much harder, we’d collapse.

Now . . .


Bob Ceremsak: ‘I checked out farechase.com. They left travelocity.com in the dust. (May I recommend my favorite book buying site? It is bestbookbuys.com. Recently I bought Lincoln on Leadership as a gift. The book cost less than the postage!’)

Steve Gilbert: ‘Tried farechase.com to get a quote for a trip from LAX to OAK. The lowest price quoted was United Airlines. They somehow omitted SWA, which was cheaper.’

Steve Meyer: ‘I have looked into a few airfare websites and I feel the best by quite a large margin is travelbyus.com. Not only does this display all fares available, but it also has an option which allows you to check nearby airports at the same time. Thus, for example, if you’re going from SFO to JFK, it will check flights out of Oakland and San Jose, and/or flights into LGA and EWR.’


M. Greger: ‘You chose to print my response to one of your columns, which is fine. I write what I believe. But your selective ‘bolding’ of words that I did not bold is irresponsible journalism. As I am sure you are aware of, bolding changes writer intent, and allows you to prepare a more focused rebuttal of the argument that you choose to ‘bold.’ I do not think it was a fair or decent thing to do.’

☞ Sorry, M. My intent was not to distort or embarrass you, just to catch people’s eyes with key phrases that might interest them. I do this quite often, especially in longer columns – vaguely the way magazines use ‘pull quotes’ – and no one has mentioned it up to now. But I’ll try to be more careful about it in the future, because it’s really not my intent to distort. Thanks for pointing this out.

(While we’re at it, it may be worth mentioning that I often also trim or edit reader comments. But never to change their thrust, only for readability.)

Debra: ‘People like Mr. Greger apparently think that if America spent one more cent on health care, education, or headstart-type programs that the whole American economy would collapse. The second largest economy in the world, Japan (where I live and teach), has both nationalized medicine and a uniform public education system whose students regularly beat the pants off American students in standardized testing. Providing for all of their citizens hasn’t destroyed their economy (though corruption might).’

Ronald Baldwin: ‘You are right about the schools, but not about the solution. There is lots of evidence that the federal government will only make it worse. Schools are locally controlled. There is no constitutional federal responsibility for education. The federal government does have complete responsibility for the schools in the District of Columbia. Until those schools are paragons of excellence, I cannot respect any public education ‘solutions’ that come from the federal government.’

☞ OK, but would you respect money? A lot of local school boards feel they could do a lot better implementing their local solutions if only they had the money.

Canaan Huie: ‘I think you may have missed one important point in your response to M. Gregor. The David Berliner article he links you to also makes the following point: ‘Perhaps, instead of condemning public education on the basis of these average scores, unhappy citizens should advocate paying teachers enough money so we can attract mathematicians and scientists to public school classrooms.”

☞ This would indeed seem opposite to Mr. Gregor’s position.

Eric Delph: ‘Could you explain the implied link between these two sentences that you wrote? << … their home lives are, so often, horrendously more difficult. That’s where money comes in: for rehabing the schools, upgrading the facilities, decreasing classroom size, recruiting terrific teachers, and supporting after-school programs. >> I’m lost. If the reason inner city students do so poorly in school is because their home life is so difficult, how does spending more money on schools improve their home life?

☞ Well, Eric, if there’s no one at home to read to you (or, sometimes, no one at home who can read) . . . no one to help you with your homework one-on-one, and no books at home . . . no quiet place to sit and read and no one home when you GET home, to supervise you after school . . . that, I think, is where having some terrific teachers and counselors, with time to devote to you one-on-one, come in. And top-notch school facilities kids can feel excited and proud to be part of. And supervised after-school activities. And, yes, maybe even “midnight basketball.”

It’s expensive to provide substitutes for parental care, and you can never do it fully. What’s more, in a perfect world, we shouldn’t have to. But investing an extra $20,000 in a kid’s early years to help him become a productive citizen, will be recouped many times over in added tax revenues and diminished anti-social behavior. Plus, it’s simply the right thing to do.

Tomorrow: More TiVo


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