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The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 20, Issue 40: October 3, 2018

  1. Catalyst Website Offers Solutions on Issues Millennials Care About
  2. Teachers and Students Get Shortchanged by K-12 Spending Priorities
  3. Republicans Ignore Opportunities to Sell Their Reform Agenda
  4. Melania Trump Goes to Africa
  5. The Beacon: New Blog Posts


1) Catalyst Website Offers Solutions on Issues Millennials Care About

Faced with expensive housing, mountains of student debt, inadequate medical coverage, concerns about privacy and civil liberties, and a bitterly partisan political culture that divides people rather than unites them, young adults are increasingly asking themselves: How did we get stuck with these problems, and what must be done to fix them? To offer encouragement and solutions on these and related issues, the Independent Institute has launched a new website—Catalyst.

Catalyst offers a topical point of view on current events that you’ll probably see nowhere else. Rather than ranting about problems or cheering for Team Red or Team Blue, it gives Millennials a forward-looking, optimistic, solutions-oriented perspective that speaks directly to their interests and concerns. Featuring a mix of infographics, quizzes, polls, videos, in addition to a variety of articles, Catalyst brings non-partisan, market-based, and community-oriented solutions to young adults.

Readers will find a welcoming community with new information, fresh ideas, and practical tools that can serve as a muse for those pondering the causes and possible solutions to the most pressing challenges they currently face. Come join the excitement. Visit Catalyst and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. And don’t miss our popular new video series aimed at young people, Love Gov2: A Crisis Not to Waste, which is climbing the charts even faster than its predecessor, the critically acclaimed, satirical smash-hit (with 7.4 million total YouTube views and growing), Love Gov: From First Date to Mandate. This reception—which, frankly, has defied our greatest expectations—only confirms our belief that Millennials are thirsty for new approaches to enduring problems. Our task now is to keep replenishing the well.

Independent Launches Catalyst to Offer Ideas and Hope to Young Careerists (Independent Institute News Release, 10/1/18)

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2) Teachers and Students Get Shortchanged by K-12 Spending Priorities

The United States is the fourth leading country in per-capita spending on K-12 education—trailing only Norway, Austria, and Luxembourg, according to the available data. But the U.S. spends only 54 percent of its education dollars on teacher compensation, compared to an average of 63 percent for developed countries. In a new op-ed for the Washington Examiner, Independent Institute Research Fellow Vicki E. Alger, author of Failure: The Federal “Misedukation” of America’s Children, puts these dire percentages into perspective.

U.S. schools have seen the supply of teachers grow faster than student enrollment—a rate of five to one since 1969—but the number of school administrators has grown even faster, outpacing enrollment by more than eight to one, according to Alger. “Had the growth in administration simply matched student-enrollment growth starting in fiscal year 1992, public schools would have saved enough money to give every teacher a permanent raise of more than $11,000,” Alger writes.

In this regard, the U.S. Department of Education, which was created in 1979 to “improve administrative streamlining and provide expert leadership,” has been an utter failure. And while the agency has recently lifted hundreds of regulations on public education, spending priorities are unlikely to improve significantly until parents are allowed to exert meaningful control over their children’s education funding. “Evidence suggests that student achievement and teacher salaries are higher when parents—not bureaucrats—control where and how their children are educated,” Alger writes.

The U.S. Is a Global Leader—and a Laggard—in Education Spending, by Vicki E. Alger (The Washington Examiner, 9/28/18)

Failure: The Federal “Misedukation” of America’s Children, by Vicki E. Alger

Customized Learning for California: Helping K–12 Students Thrive with Education Savings Accounts, by Vicki E. Alger (1/25/18)

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3) Republicans Ignore Opportunities to Sell Their Reform Agenda

Public opinion, especially on vital public-policy topics, frequently boggles the mind. For example, even though the average U.S. household stands to gain an estimated lifetime benefit of $60,000 to $70,000 from last year’s tax reform legislation, only about four in ten Americans approve of the new law. Meanwhile, Obamacare enjoys a 51 percent approval rating even though people are now getting half the healthcare coverage at twice the price. Why the disconnect? The answer—or at least a large part of it, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow John C. Goodman, in his recent column at Forbes—is that the Republican Party functions a lot more effectively when it’s out of power than when it controls the reins of the federal government.

The Democratic Party, in contrast, has learned how to make the most of its situation when it controls the White House and/or Congress. When Lyndon Johnson was president, for example, Democrats leveraged the power of congressional hearings, think tanks, and the media to help drum up public support for its entitlement programs. Today’s congressional Republicans, however, probably haven’t held a single committee hearing to hear testimony by those made worse off by Obamacare or to hear experts propose better alternatives for America’s still inadequate, still expensive healthcare system. They haven’t even reminded the public that the popular Medicare Advantage program, which works better than Medicare because it relies more on the private sector, is a creation of their own.

Similarly, Republicans have done little to sell tax reform to a confused American public. Their failure, for example, to tout the estimated $4,000 gain in average household annual income and $60,000 to $70,000 gain in average household lifetime benefits from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is baffling but par for the course. The benefits are distributed just as progressively as the pre-reform tax code and don’t change the ratio of federal debt to total economic output. “So how many hearings have there been to make these findings public?” Goodman asks in a recent Forbes column. “How many editorial board meetings have there been with major news outlets? ... To quote Frank Sinatra, ‘a few. But ... too few to mention.’”

Why Is Obamacare More Popular than the GOP Tax Cuts?, by John C. Goodman (Forbes, 8/27/18)

A Better Choice: Healthcare Solutions for America, by John C. Goodman

Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis, by John C. Goodman

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4) Melania Trump Goes to Africa

On Monday, Melania Trump left the United States for Africa, where she will visit Ghana, Malawi, Kenya, and Egypt. Independent Institute Senior Fellow George Ayittey, who hails from Ghana and heads the Free Africa Foundation, has advice for the First Lady: Don’t commit the United States to providing more foreign aid, but do champion the African woman, the backbone of every traditional economy on the continent.

Africa’s problems with foreign aid may be well known, but they’re worth repeating, according to Ayittey. While humanitarian aid is welcomed after a disaster strikes, government-to-government development assistance has been ineffective at best and counterproductive far too often. The cost of corruption, which costs Africa an estimated $148 billion a year according to the African Union, exceeds the $44 billion in annual official development assistance. “Military aid to Africa has been the most useless and pernicious [form of western aid],” Ayittey writes. “More often than not, it has strengthened the hands of dictators against their own people.”

First Lady Melania Trump could do a world of good if she takes up the cause of the African women, who constitute 60 percent to 80 percent of the agricultural labor force, according to World Bank estimates. Not only have their labor contributions—which typically include planting, harvesting, and carrying crops to sell in the marketplace—gone overlooked. The financial contributions of Africa’s traditional “market women” to the continent’s various independence movements have also been neglected or even slighted. “Melania Trump can help change all of this by making an impromptu visit to an African market and purchasing some tomatoes to show the cameras,” Ayittey writes. “Most certainly, the one selling them would be a woman!”

What Melania Trump Should Not Do on Her Trip to Africa, by George Ayittey (The Beacon, 10/1/18)

Audio: George Ayittey Discusses Why Africa Is Poor (BBC Radio, 10/25/13)

Video: George Ayittey – Defeating Dictators (Oslo Freedom Forum, 6/2/11)

Video: George Ayittey on the Cheetah Generation (3/21/11)

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5) The Beacon: New Blog Posts

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  • Catalyst
  • MyGovCost.org
  • FDAReview.org
  • OnPower.org
  • elindependent.org