William Holahan 108pc

William Holahan

William Holahan's activity stream


  • URGENT: MAKE A CARBON TAX PART OF CLIMATE CHANGE POLICY NOW

             The latest UN annual report on climate change issues the sternest warning yet that climate change due to human activity is accelerating. This series of reports has triggered two types of responses. The first type calls for government command and control measures that would phase out all fossil fuel-based energy by 2030; this has gained a great deal of attention with the introduction of the Green New Deal.  The second favors the carbon tax, a pro-market approach that would use price incentives to induce market participants to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Both strategies will be needed, but the carbon tax is misunderstood and needs further explanation. 

       The atmosphere is a “common access resource.” Consequently, an unregulated “free market” does not require payment when polluters emit CO2 into the atmosphere.  They have an incentive to save abatement costs by using the atmosphere as a free disposal site.  The implementation of a tax per unit of carbon emitted into the atmosphere would insert the missing price per unit of CO2 emission. Profit-seeking firms would be incentivized to direct their engineers and scientists to seek emission-reducing methods that are cheaper than paying the tax.

     Reducing carbon emissions costs money. In an unregulated "free" market, a firm that voluntarily incurs abatement costs places itself at a competitive disadvantage relative to competitors that do not abate their emissions.   The carbon tax applied to all emitters levels the playing field by eliminating the emitters’ advantage:  without the carbon tax, a firm can gain a competitive advantage by emitting more carbon; with the carbon tax, a firm can gain a competitive advantage by emitting less carbon.  

     As the carbon tax is passed on to consumers, they will perceive a change in the relative prices of different energy sources. For example, due to coal's relatively high carbon content per unit of energy, the carbon tax for coal would be roughly twice that for natural gas, providing coal users with a strong incentive to switch to gas. Energy buyers would perceive even lower relative prices for non-fossil energy, like wind and solar, provided they can work around natural interruptions of those sources.  

    The Bipartisan Approach

    Recognition of the potential of this tax to curtail climate-altering CO2 emissions is growing, and support for it is gaining ground on both sides of the aisle. Recently, Senators Whitehouse (D-RI) and Schatz (D-HI) proposed charging polluters $49 per ton for their carbon emissions. Meanwhile, the Climate Leadership Council (CLC),  a "conservative" organization,  endorsed a fee of $40 per ton. 

    This measure would generate considerable revenues (e.g., the CBO estimates that the Whitehouse/Schatz proposal would generate over $2 trillion per decade).  The money could be spent partially offsetting the increase in the national debt resulting from the 2017 recent debt-financed tax cut. Or, the money could be spent to beef up safety net programs for the poor, shore up the national retirement and health programs, and fix the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Or, it could be spent on speeding up the development of alternatives to fossil fuels. After all, if the scientists are right, we need to make up for lost time.  Finally, the CLC has proposed that the money could be returned to the public in the form of an equal per-person “citizen dividend.” At $40 per ton, that annual dividend is estimated at roughly $2,000 per family of four.  

    The Carbon Tax Complements Other Government Regulation.

     Many “small government conservatives,” who recognize the need to reduce CO2 emissions, over-estimate the effectiveness of a “free-market solution” offered by the carbon tax. It has great appeal for them because, as a complement to market forces, they regard it as a substitute for the "heavy hand" of government command and control actions (quotas, bans, equipment requirements, measurement techniques, inspections, and compliance rules that restrict managerial prerogatives). However, while a carbon tax reduces the scope of the required regulatory oversight, it does not eliminate the role for regulation.  The regulatory authorities still will be required to continually monitor carbon emissions to determine how high to set the tax - the higher the tax, the lower the emissions. Moreover, the government must also monitor compliance. So, while the carbon tax creates compatible incentives to reduce emissions, it is not sufficient to absolve the government of all its responsibilities.  

    The Carbon Tax is a Start on Net Zero CO2 Emissions by 2050

     According to the CLC, such a hefty tax would induce investment in abatement methods that would keep our emissions far below the 2030 target levels agreed to in the Paris accords. That would be a good start on the "net zero" by 2050,   regarded by scientists as a necessary condition to keep global temperature increase to 2°C. So the carbon tax is a good component in the large set of proposals that must work to re-organize the incentives of 340 million ideologically mixed citizens. The carbon tax gives all decision-makers an incentive to act in ways that save the planet, even if that is no part of their intent.

    William L. Holahan is Emeritus Professor and former Chair of Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

     


  • EASING THE BURDEN OF STUDENT LOAN REPAYMENT

    EASING THE BURDEN OF STUDENT LOAN REPAYMENT

     College students face rising costs in two ways:  first, tuition has risen as states have cut back on their support of higher education. Second, the number and frequency of course offerings have been reduced, increasing the time to graduation, which further adds to the student's total cost of education. In response, many students  take out large loans and/or work long hours at low wages in the hope of building an educational asset of incalculable value that will last a lifetime. Various relief measures have been proposed, including  “free college tuition” and student loan debt forgiveness.

    Two-part Plan       

                    Here's a plan targeted to the two trends that have imposed the greater repayment burden:  the government/taxpayer share of higher education costs as well as the student loan repayment schedules.

     Part I: Government/taxpayer Share

                 Taxes are already high; we cannot expect the taxpayer share of college tuition costs to be returned to 80% -- last seen in the 1970s --  let alone 100%, or  “free college.”   Since college graduates will, on average, eventually earn more than today’s average taxpayer, a free college education would involve a transfer from the average working person to those who will eventually be financially better off.   Still, society at large does benefit from an educated populace, so the first part of the plan is a compromise taxpayer share of 50%.  

    Part II: Reformed Loan Repayment Schedule

                 To reduce the loan repayment burden,  student loans should be spread over the earning years,  a term of 30 to 40 years. As with other long-lived assets, such as houses and commercial buildings,  the student loan term would reflect  the life of the asset.

                In addition, the annual dollar amount of the repayment should be capped at some low percentage of the graduate’s annual income -- e.g., 5%.  With such a cap,  the dollar amount would rise and fall with income until the debt is repaid in full, including interest. Because the years just after graduation are often low-income years (especially for students graduating during a recession or a slow national job-market recovery), the loan repayment burden is most pronounced during those years.  A fixed percentage rather than a fixed monthly dollar amount would bring the pattern of repayment in line with the graduate’s pattern of earned income.

     

    To see how this would work, consider a recent college graduate whose first job pays $36,000 per year. The student loan repayment would be capped at 5%, or $1800 per year,  $150 per month. If after a time the student's income would rise to, say, $50,000, the cap would rise to $2500 per year or $208 per month. Of course, different percentage caps could be agreed-upon: if the cap were 3% of annual income, the yearly payment based on $36,000 per year income would be $1080, or, $90 per month.  With such a fixed percentage cap formula in place, the repayment would fall automatically for the graduate who suffers a period of lower pay or even unemployment.   

    To assure a high repayment compliance,  the loan should be collected by the federal internal revenue service; repayment would simply become part of paying taxes, which are not  dischargeable in bankruptcy. 

                    A properly designed loan system would enable college students to focus on maximizing the value of their educational asset, studying more hours per week, taking more rigorous courses and majors, and graduating sooner with higher grades.   Their capacity to repay the loan would be increased by an enhanced learning experience and earlier entry into their chosen career path. College is a long-lived asset; both society and the students gain when we treat it that way.         


  • HITTING BACK WHEN CHARGED WITH “SOCIALISM”

    It's that season again: Republicans are claiming that  Democratic Party office-seekers have taken a “hard left turn” toward socialism. This gambit evokes powerful negative imagery: economic failure, soup and bread lines,  the suppression of individual initiative and innovation, and gulags for those who complain.  This rhetorical device distracts from the difficult issues facing the public, as well as deflects responsibility for resolving those issues.  The best defense is a quick pivot to offense, incorporating mainstream economics in the response. Consider a few  examples:

    Economic Issues of Great Concern to Voters

     Many of today’s concerns (health insurance, infrastructure, climate) derive from the failure of the market sector to perform well (often dubbed "market failure") or from the failure of the government sector to perform the functions assigned to it (similarly dubbed "government failure"). As the socialist label is tossed around, both voters and pundits must keep in mind a guiding economic principle: capitalism requires efficient provision of public assets that private markets will not provide. Moreover, because capitalism requires a well-functioning public sector, it is crazy to call public investments "socialism."   

     We do not face a choice between capitalism and socialism: all capitalist economies are “mixed economies” in which a large number of activities are directed by private market forces while others are directed by government forces. In those sectors where market direction is chosen, profit-seeking private firms will compete to provide those goods and services that can be owned by individuals and bought and sold on markets. In those sectors in which government direction is chosen, the means of production will be owned collectively and directed by bureaucracy and elections and paid for with taxes and user charges.  

    Because capitalism is such a successful wealth-producing system, the American presumption is that goods and services are best directed by market forces rather than through government direction. However, the challenge for modern society is not to choose markets in all sectors of the economy versus government ownership of the means of production in all sectors. Instead, it is to determine task-by-task, sector-by-sector, whether private enterprise markets or a well-chosen level of government would be the better allocator of resources within each sector.  In transportation, for example, while roads and bridges are built and maintained by government, the cars driven over them are produced by private enterprise

     Two types of error can be made: Type I is the error of implementing government ownership of the means of production in a sector that would be better served by market forces. Type II is the error of relying on markets when government ownership of the means of production would serve society better. Steady improvement of an economy’s performance depends on avoiding both types of error. 

    Hitting Back When Hit with the Charge of “Socialism”

              Candidates can use well-accepted economics to hit back sharply when confronted with a charge of socialism, with responses such as these:

    On Deteriorating Roads … “We are plagued with terrible road conditions that increase costs for commuters and business firms.  Fixing roads requires a collective initiative. … and money. To pay for the roads, we need user fees to require that those who use the roads pay for them. For now, that means raising fuel taxes; as technology improves so will better ways to impose user charges. It is ridiculous to apply the term "socialism" to investments in roads and the user charges to pay for them; roads provided publicly are essential for capitalism to thrive, and user charges employ one of the hallmarks of markets, which is using prices to require users to pay for what they use.” 

    On Health Insurance … “My opponent claims that the Affordable Care Act will lead to socialized medicine. Not true: as shown by the Heritage Foundation, a pro-market think tank, market insurance alternatives that are unregulated cannot provide universal health insurance coverage. Why not? Competition would force insurers to charge experience-rated premiums, i.e., charging higher premiums to higher-risk policy-holders. Low-income people, and those with pre-existing conditions, would be priced out of the insurance market and lose access to basic medical care.” 

    On Greenhouse Gas Emissions … “An important first step in addressing the climate threat is to recognize that the current cost of emitting carbon is too low; polluters use the atmosphere as a low-cost waste dump. Consequently, polluters are encouraged to overproduce and underprice their products.   To re-direct those market forces toward reducing carbon emissions, we should follow the advice of the Climate Leadership Committee and implement a carbon tax of $40 per ton of carbon emitted, which will generate a $2,000 per taxpayer rebate.   My opponent calls this socialism. Ridiculous. The carbon tax is an example of how to use market forces to reduce global warming pollution to sustainable levels."   

    William L. Holahan is Emeritus Professor and former Chair of Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

     

     

     


  • EFFICIENT GOVERNMENT IS OFTEN COUNTER-INTUITIVE

    In every election cycle, some of the candidates running for national office claim they are running against Washington. They claim that only people with their particular life experiences have the transferable skills to free the country from an alleged mess created by career politicians.  Consider the Republican primary race to succeed retiring Senator Rob Portman of Ohio.   Josh Mandel, who served as Ohio Treasurer and served honorably in Afghanistan,  assures us that when he gets to Washington he will not only "drain the swamp" but also "blow up the swamp."  Another contender for that Senate office is prominent businessman Mike Gibbons who asserts his comparative advantage is great business acumen honed in the private sector.  Consider, too, Wisconsin's Senator Johnson, currently running for a third term, who often touts his business experience and his accounting training as giving him essential insights into the importance of shrinking the government.   

    Should  Government Be Run Like a Business?

    The frequently-heard assertion from office-seekers who lack public-sector experience is that government should be run like a business;  if it were,  the U.S. would be solvent, more efficient, and more prosperous.  Along with this misconception goes its corollary: private sector CEOs are “job creators” and government is a job killer. As with many trivializations in economics, this one resonates well with the public but it is dangerously wrong.

    The reason this is wrong is derived directly from the free-market model, a  concept initially proposed by Adam Smith and rigorously developed since. The model is routinely taught in economics classes and business school prerequisite classes and shows that the public interest is served best by competition among firms and their investors, even though the public interest is not part of the decision maker's motivation. But it also shows that when the pre-conditions for competition do not exist, market efficiency requires intervention by government.  Economic activity, including job creation, requires a great confluence of inputs as well as coordination of the public and private sectors.  The private sector firm is necessary for most of the jobs created, but it is not sufficient.  Public goods (roads, schools, universities, courts, and law enforcement), paid for with taxes, are essential components of successful job creation efforts.  Moreover, government often has to promote the process of competition, as well as ward off recession and high unemployment.

    The Private and Public Sectors are Complements

    The economy is not a large version of a business firm. Managing an economy requires a more comprehensive economic model than the one followed in managing a firm.  A firm is a small piece of a very large puzzle. To manage a firm, CEOs employ "microeconomic" reasoning to guide all aspects of their puzzle piece: e.g., financing, marketing, and operating decisions.    By contrast, managing an economy requires an understanding of macroeconomics, which focuses on the aggregate behavior of firms in the economy, i.e., how all the puzzle pieces fit together.  For example, a properly-run government will counter the business cycle by dampening an expansion to control inflation and softening a downturn to limit unemployment. A properly run business firm, even a very large one, cannot hope to modulate economy-wide swings and instead must accept its limited role within the economy.   

    Consider the different strategies pursued by firms and governments during recessions.      Firms suffer reduced demand for their products and services. Consequently, to survive a recession and prepare for better times, a firm has a strong incentive to contract.  But business leaders who "tighten their belts" during recessions often have a hard time understanding why the government orders a bigger belt.  Economic activity encompasses four categories of spending: consumption, private sector investment, net exports, and government. In the disastrous recession of 2008, the first three of these categories declined.  Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, estimated that, if the government had also tightened its belt, unemployment would have risen to 15 percent.  Instead, it peaked at the still-terrible rate of 9.5 percent.  In other words, the recession would have been much worse had it not been for government intervention. 

    Similarly, in 2020, during the pandemic and prior to the successful distribution of a vaccine, many businesses were shutting down due to collapsing demand and, in many cases, were forced to shut down by government order. As the economy lost 21 million jobs in a month and a half, the federal government frantically borrowed and spent $3.1 trillion in just one year. This counter-cyclical spending shored up businesses and households which otherwise would have been lost.

    William L. Holahan is Emeritus Professor and former Chair of Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.


  • published BRING BACK DROP BOXES in Econ4Voters 2022-03-06 14:13:34 -0600

    BRING BACK DROP BOXES

    When the nation was founded, the right to vote was limited to white landowners. Since then, our nation has strengthened representative democracy by extending the right to vote to people who do not own land, to non-whites, to women, to younger people. Each time the right to vote was extended to a new demographic group, it was declared that all registered voters are to be accorded equal access to the polls. Officially, access was to be both fair and unbiased.  For example, it became customary within a state that all voting places be open for the same days and hours.  That would seem to provide equal access, but in practice, it can be used as a tool to suppress the vote; while the polling places may be in operation for exactly the same amount of time, the amount of time needed to vote may differ considerably due to local conditions such as the number of polling places per capita.

     The Wisconsin primary of April 7, 2020, provides an illustration.  Contrary to the recommendations of the President’s Pandemic Advisory Task Force to delay an election for a State Supreme Court seat,  Wisconsin held it as scheduled on  April 7, 2020.   Efforts to change the date due to Covid were rejected by the gerrymandered Republican legislature, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and the United States Supreme Court. Consequently, contrary to the stay-at-home recommendation of the Center for Disease Control, the election proceeded on schedule, and voters waited in lines for up to two and a half hours, wearing surgical masks on their faces and maintaining six-foot "social distances" from each other.   The local TV news that evening featured footage of the long lines to vote at Riverside High School on Milwaukee's East Side.  As if the time cost we're not enough of a deterrent, Mother Nature delivered an inch of rain in an hour,  punctuated by hailstones.   While those voters endured long lines in bad weather, just a mile up the street in the northern suburb of Shorewood,  voters were voting in 10 minutes, parking in designated parking spaces, and then heading off to their next appointment.   

                Equal access?

                 Time has a great opportunity cost:  the greater the amount of time required to vote, the more other activities have to be cut back; the more parents need babysitters; the less time available for work or family.  When some vote in ten minutes with ease while others stand in bad weather for ten times as long; the opportunity costs are very different.  The greater that cost, the greater the disincentive to vote.

                The tools available to achieve more equal voting times include more conveniently located polling places,  mail-in ballots, ballots received by mail, drop boxes, and the ability to drop a completed ballot with a certified clerk. Since all of these have been used for years in various jurisdictions around the country,  those opposed to them should bear a burden of proof that they lead to integrity problems.    

    The 2020 election provides a controlled experiment. Anticipating long lines at polling centers, exposing voters to Covid while waiting to vote,  the state relaxed its rules on absentee voting by mail-in ballot and the use of drop boxes. Eight hundred thousand registered voters applied, providing an online photo of their driver’s license to receive a ballot in the mail.  The return envelope required a signature witnessed by another registered voter who also had to provide an address.  Any errors nullified the ballot, and fraud was deterred by stiff financial fines and possible jail.  The completed ballot was then either mailed or placed in a certified drop-box.   This pandemic-induced procedure worked well, and despite strenuous effort to find evidence of voter fraud, none has been found.    

      The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) filed a lawsuit arguing that the use of drop boxes was not in accordance with the requirements of ballot custody spelled out quite clearly in Wisconsin Statute.  They won: on February 11, 2022, the State Supreme Court agreed and banned the use of drop-boxes for the remainder of 2022.  

    The proponents of equal access to the ballot box should propose an evidence-based change in the law to permit the use of drop boxes.  Here WILL  helps: in addition to their successful lawsuit,  WILL also issued a report confirming that the use of drop boxes during the pandemic did not contribute to voter fraud!   Mail-ballot voting with drop boxes has been the norm in four states for twenty years: Washington, Utah, Oregon, and Colorado.   They report no significant problems. For example, Oregon found that out of 100 million ballots handled since the year 2000, there were 12 cases of voter fraud or 0.000012%. With tiny numbers like that, the benefit of mail-in voting vastly outweighs any damage done to democracy by potential fraud. Moreover, a problem would have to be based on “net fraud,” i.e., the difference between the tiny number of fraud cases in in-person voting versus the tiny number of fraud cases from absentee ballot/dropbox voting. The burden of proof should be on those who make this extremely dubious charge.  Finding none, let's get those drop boxes back in the business of reducing voter suppression and strengthening democracy.

                  (A very comprehensive account of the issue, including a discussion of WILL's report finding no voter fraud, can be found here: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-best-summary-of-the-2020-election-biden-wisconsin-trump-lawsuit-voting-rights-fraud-absentee-dropboxes-ballot-curing-big-lie-11642966744?st=pjas9v2kn1k1wjr&reflink=desktopwebshare_permalink)

    William L. Holahan is an Emeritus Professor and former Chair of Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

     

     


  • INSTANT RUN-OFF VOTING: A PATH TO MAJORITY RULE

    With the split in the Republican Party growing by the day, the likelihood is increasing of a multiple-candidate presidential primary season in 2024.  In that event, no doubt a large number of presidential hopefuls will declare their candidacy in a contest similar to the 2016 primary which began with 17 candidates.   Meanwhile, the Democrats will also have a primary season beginning with several hopefuls, if not in 2024 then certainly in 2028. 

             Neither party has a rational procedure for choosing the final winner in these multiple candidate contests.  If the current rules apply, those primaries will be conducted over many months, each decided by plurality rule, not majority rule. A series of plurality vote wins does not lead to majority rule. Instead, plurality rule in a series of primaries among a large number of contestants is highly likely to prevent majority rule as a matter of simple arithmetic.

              To illustrate the general problem, consider a party with a core constituency of, say, 60% of its members. These are Republicans who yearn for a return to sanity and "principles" that they claim to believe in:  free markets; individuality; personal responsibility; law and order, de-regulation, lower taxes, smaller government, and so on.  Another 30% are fringe voters who grieve for the good old days, and a candidate who will vaguely promise to shake things up by protecting an imaginary  Second Amendment not tethered to recent Supreme Court decisions,  approving of police violence, freedom from vaccine and mask mandates, and abandoning logic and science as well as accurate history in schools.    A smattering of "undecided" makes up the other 10%.

             Now suppose that the 60% core voters are split among five candidates, each with about 12% of the core voters apiece. With the core vote split among the several candidates, a fringe candidate with only 30% of the vote can win an early primary contest determined by plurality rule.  A recent example is the 2016   Republican primary season when Donald Trump won a series of early primaries with only 25 to 30% of the vote while the more traditional established vote was split among several more candidates including Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, and John Kasich. Because he retains solid support among at least 30% of Republicans,  Trump is primed to do that again in 2024.

    The Essence of the Problem

             The presidential primary season is a sequence of contests, each one influencing the next in the series. The winner of the first primary in the series  gains not only that election victory but also a first-mover advantage in the next election in the sequence: delegates toward the total number needed to eventually win the party nomination, growing donor support,  improvement in the polls,   media reports on the candidate's momentum, and priceless television interview time.   

             One by one, losing contenders drop out as donors give up on them and polls show them dropping.    As candidates drop out after losing in earlier contests which were determined by plurality rule, winners of contests later in the series will get larger vote percentages, perhaps even greater than 50%.  What is a majority vote in those contests is not a majority-rule result for the primary season; the contestants in those later contests were the survivors of earlier contests determined by plurality rule. 

    RANK CHOICE VOTING (aka INSTANT RUN-OFF VOTING)

             Instant runoff voting (IRV) retains majority rule in all of the contests in the series, regardless of how many candidates enter those contests.  IRV increases the likelihood that the winners of early primaries will represent the preferences of the majority of voters.    Here's how it works: instead of voting for just one person, the ballot permits the voter to vote for several contestants, ranking them in their order of preference.  After the polls close computers tally the first-choice votes. A winner is declared only if the top vote-getter has a majority of all votes cast. Otherwise, a new round of calculation ensues in which the last-place finisher is eliminated and their ranked votes are redistributed to the other candidates.   If this second round calculation produces a majority vote-getter, that candidate is the winner.  If not, additional rounds are calculated until a candidate does get a majority.

             Conventional runoffs are time-consuming, expensive, and inconvenient for the voter.  Consequently, neither party uses them.  The default has been to designate the plurality vote-getter as the winner and move on to the next primary contest.    By contrast, IRV is conducted by computer and results can be established very quickly after the polls close.   

               If the Republican party is to resuscitate itself into a principled, centrist organization, they should implement IRV for the 2024 presidential primary season. Similarly, whether it happens in 2024 or 2028, the Democratic party should appeal to their majority and do the same.

    William L. Holahan is an Emeritus Professor and former Chair of Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

     

     

     

     

     


  • CRITICAL RACE THEORY AND THE SUBURBAN VOTE

    CRITICAL RACE THEORY AND THE SUBURBAN VOTE   

             A core concern for most suburban parents is the education of their children, a concern heightened during the pandemic by school closures and online "virtual classroom" substitutes.     Evidence is mounting of a "COVID Slide" in student proficiency, especially in English and math.   The parents know that the online virtual classrooms have proven to be less effective than in-person instruction, and they want to help their children catch up. 

               Into this environment of concern and exasperation come well-financed right-wing efforts to take over local school boards.        The strategic wedge issue: the claim that "critical race theory" is being taught in the schools.   The claim is false:    CRT is a law-school-level analysis of how legal systems and practices such as bank lending rules and school segregation impact different racial and ethnic groups.  Because it requires law-school-level acumen, it is not and cannot be taught in the kindergarten through 12th grades.        

             It is not sufficient, however, for Democrats to simply counter-claim that CRT is not being taught in suburban schools.  This code phrase resonates with suburban parents because of the greater race consciousness that prevails these days. The Republicans have a strong motivation to make the claim:   to swing elections, not just for school boards but also for higher offices.   Republicans lost the Wisconsin popular vote in the presidential contest by just over 20,000 votes.  A pick-up of just a few percentage points in the suburbs would flip the state back to the Republicans as in 2016.     The CRT label will be amalgamated with other rhetorical handles to bash Democratic Party candidates, such as "defund the police," voting rights for non-citizens, and labeling policy proposals as "socialism."   

             During the heat of political campaigns, the threat posed to school curriculum by CRT will be portrayed not only as a threat to the self-esteem of white students but also as a massive shift of time and resources, limiting the time and resources needed to reverse the COVID-slide.   The survey done by ALG Research after the recent election of Virginia’s governor Youngkin shows that parents generally were not fearful of honest history, but rather were convinced that more instructional time is needed to reverse academic declines and increase proficiencies in core math and English.

    (https://thirdway.imgix.net/pdfs/override/Qualitative-Research-Findings-–-Virginia-Post-Election-Research.pdf)

    PROMOTE A POSITIVE ALTERNATIVE: BROADBAND AND TUTORING   

             The   Democrats have an opportunity to take control of this conversation.   Based upon a long tradition of passionate support for excellence in public schools, they could credibly remind voters that it is they who have been strenuously promoting essential investments to ensure that all students have the assets they need, including laptops, fast broadband access, sufficient supplies, and well-paid teachers.

    Research on Tutoring

               Recently published research shows how tutoring can augment the effort to recover from COVID.   The Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University proposes large-scale tutoring programs. They propose online tutoring services staffed by 300,000   college students and other members of society who could interact with students struggling with their math and English.  "Structured tutoring programs can make a large difference in a short time, exactly what is needed to help students quickly catch up with grade level expectations."

     (https://www.the74million.org/article/slavin-an-open-letter-to-president-elect-biden-a-tutoring-marshall-plan-to-heal-our-students/).  Matthew A. Kraft, and Grace Falken of the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, agree: "Tutoring is among the most effective education interventions ever to be subjected to rigorous evaluation."     (https://www.edworkingpapers.com/sites/default/files/ai20-335.pdf)

             The pandemic-induced decline in achievement hits poor students the hardest, both in urban and rural areas. Unless reversed, educational gaps will widen further, and deepen current income and wealth gaps. The tutoring proposal from Johns Hopkins and Brown would not only upgrade the schools generally but make the more advanced courses in math and English accessible to more students, opening doors to disciplines and professions that are highly productive, pay well, and can lead to greater equality in income and wealth.   

     LABOR INTENSIVE TEACHING

              Core competencies like English composition and math cannot simply be transferred like physical capital.  A system-wide tutoring program would help schools provide the resources for students to be immersed in the practices of solving math problems and essay writing, while benefitting from more labor-intensive instruction and evaluation of their work. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona agrees, and urges states to spend COVID money on tutoring. 

    (https://www.nytimes.com/live/2022/01/27/world/omicron-covid-vaccine-tests ) 

              Democracy is strengthened when honest history dispels some of the delusions of the inaccurately-portrayed past.  The core goal of education should be to develop students who can think critically for themselves, and express their thoughts well by applying a strong working knowledge of the core languages of their education:  English and math.   

              Implemented in Wisconsin, the "Marshall Plan for Tutoring"   suggested by research powerhouses at Johns Hopkins and Brown Universities would present to parents and students a welcome, positive alternative to the dreary, racially-charged critical race theory assertion.

    William L. Holahan is Emeritus Professor and former Chair of Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.