Friday, April 17, 2009

Three Days' Times

A bit of praise for the Times getting past the noise (CNN seems intoxicated):

Kristof went after the root of our problems on April 15, Taxday: "How to Raise Our I.Q." His careful reading of the evidence led to some practical, useful recommendations.

On the public policy level, he concludes that we should invest more in early childhood education (but not in Head Start, much earlier). In terms of childhood parenting, it means practices like praising effort and teaching delayed gratification. The best bit he had came on the subject of middle-schoolers:

another proven intervention is to tell junior-high-school students that I.Q. is expandable, and that their intelligence is something they can help shape. Students exposed to that idea work harder and get better grades.
He didn't draw the conclusion that if we raised our "collective I.Q." a billion points or so we might actually be able to revise the Tax Code, though.

Following on the topic of the massive challenges to our educational system, today's critical assessment of social standards, "Dude, You've Got Problems" took a shot across the bow of the "Op-Extra" boat (a weekly column called "Domestic Disturbances) and rocked it, as I see things. Judith Warner picked exactly the right topic, the promiscuous labelling of non-homoerotic behavior as "gay". It's the second-worst behavior of our youngbloods, next only to beltlines that are designed to fall down to the lower thigh (and this latter one seems finally to be abating).

She sets up the key findings, not limiting herself to the use of complete sentences, and acutely describes the girls sin, too; they have only a
very fine line between progress and utter regression. Spending unprecedented amounts of time and money on their hair, their skin and their bodies, at earlier and earlier ages. Essentially accepting the highly sexualized identity imposed on them, long before middle school, by advertisers and pop culture.
Just kidding, I love the tone, and I find the piece excellent fodder for some kind of modern Civics class ("ethical choices?")

The piece I note as being yesterday's was Nobel laureate Paul Krugman allowing himself to deceive the reader with his falsely hopeful title, "Green Shoots and Glimmers". He proceeded to stamp on the shoots and block the light over the glimmers. Krugman is merely continuing on the theme he went with big, proclaiming "Obama Is Wrong" on the Newsweek cover April 6.

Krugman's bases his "loyal opposition" (to be accomplished by all means necessary) on his staking out a position in favor of more use of make-work infrastructure jobs in the stimulus package. I largely accept his argument that more jobs could be created in this way, and that this would give more forward movement to the economy than alternative approaches (such as Obama's, which focused on structural adjustment and tax cuts for the middle class). Further, even the most pragmatic Obamaian should accept that "jobs, jobs, jobs" is the critical measure of "it's the stupid economy".

Ultimately, though, I side with Obama (Every time I viewed the Newsweek cover I heard a song in my mind: "If Obama is wrong, I don't wanna be right!") . I think it far better to create jobs with a sustainable basis rather than ones programmed to be short in duration (or else pure waste). The Bushite Recovery of 2003-08 should be enough to show us that not all job-creation, such as the non-bank mortgage refinancing industry for example, is equal.

The compromise position Krugman will accept will be the backup plan Obama will show him (in private). If things don't work right with the targeted, structural appoach, he will go heavier for the make-work, either taking some of the money appropriated in principle through the legislation or asking for additional spending authority. So, I disagree with those who say there is no Plan B.

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