Blog Post by: Peter Osnos, on January 30, 2013
“Reality television” as we now call it has a game-show aura in which amateurs with a willingness to show off become pseudo-celebrities. While some viewers may cringe (or skip the genre altogether), reality shows have attracted audiences in droves. But the origins of poking into peoples’ lives on television had a distinctly different character. It was 1964 when a young trainee named Michael Apted at Britain’s Granada Television was mandated by a producer to round up a group of children for a documentary to test the Jesuit motto, “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.” Apted brought together twenty children— ten boys and four girls eventually made it to the film—for a visit to the London Zoo. They were a cross-section of Britain’s post-World War II social strata, from the working class to the upper-middle class. The result was a vastly entertaining program called Seven Up. The black-and-white simplicity of the presentation did not dull the buoyancy of the children’s personas. Each of them was asked to frame their futures, and did so in keeping with their backgrounds. Unlike their American counterparts of the era, they all seemed ready to take the place Britain expected of them—a would-be jockey who became a cab driver; East End school girls in an age when professions for them were unlikely; schoolteachers and solicitors with appropriate preparation.
Blog Post by: Thérèse Postel, on January 29, 2013
Gun control has become a politically charged issue at every level of American government since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on December 14, 2012. Here is a look at some of the holistic legislative measures that have been proposed since the beginning of the 113th Congress. These bills not only attempt to strengthen gun control, but also look to address several public health concerns that have swirled around the firearm debate. This page will be updated on a regular basis as more bills are proposed and move through the legislative process.
Blog Post by: Benjamin Landy, on January 29, 2013
The economics blogosphere has been abuzz the last few days over a controversial op-ed, recently published in the Wall Street Journal, that attempts to expose the "progressive trope" of middle-class decline as a statistical illusion constructed by redistributionists and pessimists. The article's authors, economists Donald Boudreaux and Mark Perry, make several related claims: first, that the consumer price index (CPI) overestimates inflation by "underestimating the value of improvements in product quality and variety"; second, that stagnant wage growth does not take into account the rising value of employer-sponsored benefits such as health insurance; and third, that the average hourly wage has been held down by the entry of women and immigrants into the workforce. In fact, Boudreaux and Perry argue, American life expectancy has increased by five years since 1980, and household spending on "basics" such as housing, food, cars, and clothing consumes less than a third of disposable income, down from 44 percent in 1970 and 53 percent in 1950.
There are several problems here. First, as Jim Tankersley at Wonkblog correctly points out, the percentage of disposable income spent on "basics" is very much dependent on the definition of "basic." While food, cars, computers and clothing are cheaper and of a higher quality than ever before, the cost of other essential middle class goods like housing, gasoline, health care and education have risen significantly.
Blog Post by: Mark Thoma, on January 29, 2013
John Makin and Daniel Hanson of the conservative American Economic Institute talk sense on the deficit. Now if we could just get them over their inflation fears—the source of the "unfortunately" part of the title—we might be able to get somewhere in addressing our biggest problem right now, high and persistent unemployment, and enhance our long-term growth prospects at the same time:
Blog Post by: Halley Potter, on January 28, 2013
Proponents of socioeconomically and racially diverse schools, myself included, frequently point to data showing that charter schools, on average, have greater concentrations of poverty and racial isolation than traditional public schools. For supporters of school integration, these increased levels of de facto segregation are reason to be skeptical about the current direction of the charter school sector.
But it is important not to oversimplify this concern to mean that school choice in general is bad for diversity. In theory and in practice, school choice has the ability to help or hinder school integration.
Blog Post by: The Century Foundation, on January 28, 2013
JOIN THANASSIS CAMBANIS and #TheInsurgents author FRED KAPLAN in a LIVE TWITTER CHAT on WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 30 at 1:00 PM EST— Use #TheInsurgents to join, ask questions, follow the conversation.
Blog Post by: Thanassis Cambanis, on January 26, 2013
TCF fellow Thanassis Cambanis writes about the future of the military, post-invasion Iraq and his New York Times review of the new book, The Insurgents.
The Pentagon finally learned to embrace new ideas. Can its short-lived revolution in thinking survive the coming period of austerity and retrenchment?
The American military has maintained global dominance in part by being all things to all people. Blessed with a Brobdingnagian budget, it has been able to prepare for all kinds of war, all at the same time. Faced now with cuts after a decade of open-handed war funding, the Pentagon has raised the alarm about readiness. The Joint Chiefs of Staff in a unanimous letter in January complained to the president that “we are on the brink of creating a hollow force.”
Blog Post by: Richard C. Leone, on January 25, 2013
It wasn’t surprising that, in his second inaugural address, President Obama asserted his continuing support of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. What was unusual and remarkably insightful was his reference to the role these programs play in underpinning our prosperity. As Obama put it, “they free us to take the risks that make this country great.” It’s common to cite these programs as cushioning the burdens of old age and providing access to otherwise unaffordable health care. But how often do we think of them as protecting our backs in an uncertain, risky, and rapidly changing global economy? How often do we think about the safety net as proving some assurance that risk taking of the kind represented, say, by starting a new business or going back to school to change careers doesn’t have to mean that we have increased our risk of winding up in abject poverty or ruined by the cost of an illness?
Blog Post by: Andrew Fieldhouse, Josh Bivens, on January 25, 2013
In the aftermath of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (i.e., the lame-duck budget deal, ATRA for short), many in Washington have urged ten-year deficit reduction targets that are trillions more than the $600 billion reduction already locked in by ATRA. While many of these calls for increased deficit reductions have been inchoate (as noted here), others have been more reasonably grounded. Yet, we think that nearly all demands for specific, ambitious ten-year deficit reduction targets are likely to be terribly counterproductive in the current debate
Blog Post by: Andrew Fieldhouse, on January 24, 2013
Via Ezra Klein comes a must-read leaked memo from Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to Senate Democrats ahead of fashioning a Senate Budget Resolution. It’s an excellent chronology of the deficit reduction enacted in the 112th Congress—a hefty $2.4 trillion expected to take effect and $3.6 trillion if sequestration goes into effect—and the looming phases on the Beltway budget fights following the American Taxpayer Relief Act (i.e., the lame-duck budget fight, or ATRA for short).1
Klein hones in on tables depicting the fundamentally unbalanced nature of deficit reduction in the 112th Congress: Ignoring sequestration, 70 percent of policy deficit reduction measures (i.e., excluding additional debt service savings) enacted came from spending cuts as opposed to revenue, and if sequestration takes effect as scheduled, the share of spending cuts ratchets up to 80 percent. Murray’s memo contrasts these ratios with a 51 percent revenue share proposed by the Simpson-Bowles Co-Chairs’ report and 52 percent in the Senate’s bipartisan “Gang of Six” proposal.
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