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It began as an ordinary piece of fan mail, thanking me for writing a book I published a few years ago (“Coming Apart”) and expressing the writer’s shared concern with the loss of seemliness in American life. And then the ordinary suddenly became extraordinary: “I write to give you my personal perspective on why CEOs make so much money as you describe in Coming Apart. I’m not writing about the really obscene hundreds of millions that clearly are the result of clubbiness and abandonment of a sense of seemliness, but about why the average is $12 million today and increasing every year.”
Our guest this week is Dana Perino, former White House Press Secretary under President George W. Bush and current co-host of The Five on Fox News. Dana gives us the scoop on her new book, “And the Good News Is…: Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side,” which details the lessons-learned from her nontraditional route from a small town in Wyoming to the White House and beyond.
The Wall Street Journal won a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize this week for publishing a series of articles on Medicare billing and health care provider practices. The win highlights an important issue that does not get much attention – limited public access to government data. Across many government-provided programs, provider and individual data (even if it has no personally identifying information) is restricted from public view. Not only is this bad from a transparency perspective, but it limits the ability of researchers to assess the effectiveness of government programs.
Last week, the Senate reauthorized the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program with a strongly bipartisan vote of 92 to eight, following a House vote this past March of 392 to seven supporting the program. Policymakers are on the right side of history. Voluntary home visiting programs, while not as well-known as Head Start or state pre-K, may be the single most promising approach to improving the lives of America’s most disadvantaged young children.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides food assistance to almost 23 million households and 46 million people – a two-fold increase since 2006. The dramatic increase in participants and expenditures have led to proposals for cuts, and work requirements to control costs. However, work requirements for work-able adults without dependent children have been part of SNAP since welfare reform in the late 1990s.
Yesterday, the Washington Post described an academic study that has been getting a lot of press recently. The authors used brain scans of 1,100 children and young adults to demonstrate that the surface area of the cerebral cortex of poor children was 6% smaller than those of affluent families, and that they also scored lower on a battery of cognitive tests. Their conclusion was that poverty was the causal factor. The Post article quotes the author of a similar study that will be published soon, who emphatically agreed. I’m baffled by this confidence that poverty is the cause. If you’re not, let’s find out why.
The employment data released today by the BLS shows that the unemployment rate remained at 5.5% in March 2015, with the economy gaining 126,000 jobs. Unemployment is at the lowest level since 2008, but it is still not back to a pre-recession level of 4.6%. And labor force participation remains a concern. At 62.7% in March 2015, it is still far below the March 2006 rate of 66.2%.
The notion that the Federal Communications Commission would designate Internet access to be a Title II service – a “public utility” as Susan Crawford and other net neutrality advocates put it – was inconceivable as recently as a few months ago. Then, just after the election, something happened.