Carpe Diem

Academic Slums: Schools of Education?

American education will never be improved until we address one of the problems seen as too delicate to discuss. That problem is the overall quality of people teaching our children. Students who have chosen education as their major have the lowest SAT scores of any other major. Students who have graduated with an education degree earn lower scores than any other major on graduate school admissions tests such as the GRE, MCAT or LSAT. Schools of education, either graduate or undergraduate, represent the academic slums of most any university. As such, they are home to the least able students and professors with the lowest academic respect. Were we serious about efforts to improve public education, one of the first things we would do is eliminate schools of education.

~George Mason economist Walter Williams writing in his most recent nationally syndicated column

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Overwhelming Evidence V: Good Old Days Are Now

Another post on the theme “The good old days are now.” The standard of living for the average American just keeps getting better and better over time. One reason we don’t appreciate it, is that the improvements, though persistent and relentless, happen gradually year after year, so we end up taking it for granted. If the average home size increased from 983 sq. ft. to 2,349 sq. ft. overnight, we would treat it as a modern miracle. When it happens 25 sq. ft. per year for a half century, we don’t even notice it.

(HT: FancyPlaidPants, via NPR)
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There’s Hope For the US Dollar: Comeback Ahead?

Using mid-December exchange-rate data from FT.com, the chart above shows the one-year forward discount or premium for the US dollar vs. the Euro and British Pound in 2005, 2006, and 2007.

Note that two years ago, the USD was trading at a one-year forward discount vs. both the Euro (-2.0%) and the BP (-0.20%). In recent trading, the USD is now trading at a one-year forward premium vs. both the Euro (+0.20%) and the BP (+1.20%).

Bottom Line: There’s hope for the USD! Its value has stabilized, and it has actually appreciated by more than 2% vs. the Euro in the last week, and by 1.5% vs. the British Pound. And since late November, the USD has been trading at a one-year forward premium vs. the Euro for the first time in at least three years, and I don’t think that has received any media attention.
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Tata: Maker of World’s Most, Least Expensive Cars?

NY TIMES–The luxury brand Jaguar is poised to join Tata Motors, a widely diverse Indian auto company that makes tractor-trailers, full-size SUVs and the world’s cheapest car. A final signed deal, which is expected to be worth about $2 billion, will not be announced until early next year.

When Tata is done buying a company, it should look the same as before, “except now it’s owned by someone in India,” said Ratan Tata, chairman of the Tata Group.
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Crass Commercialism vs. Crass Politics

Even more predictable than the post-Thanksgiving appearance of shopping-mall Santas is the inability of pundits at this time of year to say or to write “commercialism” without prefixing to it the word “crass.”

I challenge this notion. Commerce is peaceful. It involves sellers working hard and taking risks to bring to market goods and services that consumers want to buy. No one forces anyone to do anything; all is voluntary.

What truly is crass is politics. Far more enlightened and ethical behavior is on display during any one day in a shopping mall than the most intrepid observer will find in a century on Pennsylvania Avenue.

~George Mason Economist and Cafe Hayek blogger Don Boudreaux

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More On Why Inflation Will NOT Be A Problem

Exhibit A: See graph below (click to enlarge) of the Adjusted Monetary Base, from the St. Louis Federal Reserve, from 2002-2007. Notice the decline in growth from 10% to 2%, suggesting a deflationary trend in high-powered money.

Exhibit B: See graph below of the Adjusted Monetary Base vs. M1 Money Supply, from 2002-2007. Notice that as the growth in high-powered money growth, controlled by the Fed, has come down from 10% in 2002 to 2% in 2007, the M1 Money Supply has stablized at about $1.36 trillion.

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Don’t Like the Bush Tax Cuts? Don’t Pay Them! Pay Your Taxes Under Old Rates From 2000 or 2001

SAN FRANCISCOBuffett indirectly blamed the Bush administration for a tax code he said is out of whack.

“In the last seven-eight years what has happened is that the super-rich have gotten a huge break,” said Buffett, one of the world’s richest people with a net worth of $52 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

In a previous post, I challenged proponents of tax increases to raise taxes on themselves immediately by making a voluntary gift to to the U.S. Treasury, and not waiting for the Bush tax cuts to expire. After all, if forced increases in taxes are desirable by future changes in the tax code, then voluntary tax increases by rich taxpayers like Buffet and the Clintons right now should be desirable.

Here’s another idea for Buffet and the Clintons. If they think that the tax codes in previous years were more equitable, fair and desirable then they can pay under the old rates for their 2007 tax returns. Here are the tax rates for 2000 (highest rate 39.6%), 2001 (highest rate 39.1%), and 2002 (highest rate 38.6%). In other words, if they don’t like the Bush tax cuts (highest rate 35%), they don’t have to accept them, they can file under the pre-Bush tax rates, i.e. the Clinton tax rates.