Author: USC Admin

A Ramp Away From the Fiscal Cliff

EDWARD D. KLEINBARD, professor of law, USC’s Gould School of Law.

This op-ed originally appeared at CNN on Nov. 30.

America’s fiscal policy faces an apparent Hobson’s choice. On the one hand, we need to tame federal deficit spending by imposing new across-the-board spending cuts and higher taxes. We are told that if we do not act on this soon, the debt markets will choke on the overabundance of government debt issued to fund those deficits, causing interest rates to climb. As a result, businesses and homeowners will be unable to borrow on reasonable terms, which will lead to a slowdown of the economy.

How Lawyers Undermine Access to Justice

GILLIAN HADFIELD, professor of law and economics, USC’s Gould School of Law.

This op-ed originally appeared at CNN on Nov. 25.

In our country, lawyers and judges regulate their own markets. The upshot is that getting legal help is enormously expensive and out of reach for the vast majority of Americans. Anyone faced with a contract dispute, family crisis, foreclosure or eviction must pay a lawyer with a JD degree to provide service one-on-one in the same way lawyers have done business for hundreds of years.

Increasingly, the only “persons” with access to legal help are “artificial persons” — corporations, organizations and governments. No wonder that in a 2010 New York study, it was shown 95% of people in housing court are unrepresented. The same is true in consumer credit and child support cases; 44% of people in foreclosures are representing themselves—against a well-represented bank, no small number of whom engaged in robo-signing and sued people based on faulty information.

Obamacare Exchanges May Be Too Small to Succeed

DANA P. GOLDMAN, director of USC’s Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, MICHAEL CHERNEW and ANUPAN JENA, professor of health policy at Harvard University.

This op-ed originally appeared in the New York Times on Nov. 23.

With the re-election of President Obama, the Affordable Care Act is back on track for being carried out in 2014. Central to its success will be the creation of health-insurance exchanges in each state. Beneficiaries will be able to go a Web site and shop for health insurance, with the government subsidizing the premiums of those whose qualify. By encouraging competition among insurers in an open marketplace, the health care law aims to wring some savings out of the insurance industry to keep premiums affordable.

The Future American Electorate Is California

SHERRY BEBITCH JEFFE, senior fellow, USC Price School of Public Policy, and DOUGLAS JEFFE.

This op-ed originally appeared at Reuters.

The changing face of the American electorate is etched all over the map of California. The Golden State may no longer be a partisan battleground, but it continues to be a reliable bellwether for the evolving national political landscape.

Even as President Barack Obama won a second term with an electorate that mirrored the demographic trends that have made California deep blue, Golden State voters chose to raise taxes to fund education and gave Democrats a two-thirds “supermajority” in both houses of the state legislature—meaning Democratic lawmakers will have the ability to raise taxes without a single Republican vote.

A Hail Mary to Save Proposition 30

DAN SCHNUR, director of USC’s Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

Since the day he took office, Gov. Jerry Brown has been on a crusade to convince Californians that he is not just fiscally responsible but downright stingy. During his first week as governor, he ordered thousands of state workers to give up their government-issued cellphones. Since then, he has negotiated to rein in pensions for public employees, initiated welfare reforms that were included in the last budget and bragged about his preference for flying Read more →

Science the Messenger Gagged

COSTAS SYNOLAKIS, professor of environmental enginering, Viterbi School of Engineering.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

It is impossible to predict earthquakes with the precision that would have helped the 300 people who died as a result of the earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy, on April 6, 2009. It is equally difficult, apparently, to predict court decisions.

After a 13-month trial, six scientists and one government official were sentenced to six years in jail Monday for giving authorities information that was “too reassuring” about the possibility that an earthquake would take place in the wake of a series of small earthquakes. The defendants will also have to pay compensation to the families of 29 of the 309 victims who, swayed by government reassurances, did not evacuate their homes, according to relatives.

Can a Legislature Run by California Democrats Clean Up the Mess

SHERRY BEBITCH JEFFE, fellow, USC Price School of Public Policy, and DOUGLAS JEFFE.

This op-ed originally appeared at Reuters.

California is on the verge of becoming a one-party state — but policy gridlock isn’t going anywhere soon.

Democrats now hold all the statewide offices and have a shot Tuesday at achieving two-thirds majorities in the Legislature. Yet they are far from being able to unilaterally resolve California’s fiscal logjam.

For the past decade, California’s fiscal picture has been awash in red ink, legislative stalemates, borrowing and a lot of budgetary gimmickry. Three governors in a row, Gray Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown, hit a stone wall in trying to resolve the state’s structural deficit—the imbalance between ongoing spending and available tax revenues — that has persisted in

The Self-Loathing Congress

DAN SCHNUR, director of USC’s Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics.

This op-ed originally appeared at Politico.

We’ve become accustomed to the fact that the American people don’t like Congress. But what happens when even Congress doesn’t like Congress anymore?

Answer: They go home. Members of Congress are so fed up with gridlock, they are leaving the body in droves. In the past four years alone, almost two dozen incumbents have thrown up their hands and decided not to seek reelection, a number that is unprecedented in modern political history. Over the past three decades, this rate of departure is almost double that which we have seen over any other four-year period.

Why Does CEO Mean White Male?

K.C. COLE, professor of journalism, USC Annenberg.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Oct. 18.

A pedestrian holding a map approaches you and asks for directions. You engage in a short conversation, which is briefly interrupted when two workers walk between you carrying a door. A second later, you continue your conversation.

What you don’t notice is that the pedestrian is now someone else. Yep, that’s right: A different person took his place when the door passed between you. And you didn’t even notice. In fact, fully 50% of people who participated in this 1998 experiment by psychologist Daniel Simons were blind to the switch.

The Medicare Disadvantage

DANA GOLDMAN, director of USC’s Schaeffer Center, ADAM LEIVE, graduate student at University of Pennsylvania and DANIEL MCFADDEN, senior fellow, Schaeffer Center.

This op-ed originally appeared at the New York Times.

One question at the center of the Medicare debate is whether private insurance companies have a future role to play in the huge federal program. Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget proposal gives private health plans a starring role in the form of a voucher program. But some economists would give them the hook, citing the failure of Medicare Advantage to control costs. Some perspective is in order.

Medicare Advantage has historically cost 7 to 12 percent more than traditional Medicare, according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. But to conclude that this cost difference proves that private health plans have no place in Medicare misreads the Medicare Advantage experience in an important way: It ignores the decisive role that government has played in driving up the program’s costs. Medicare Advantage is only partly about reducing costs. It is also designed to increase choice for beneficiaries. And the incentives that government gives private health plans to expand choice end up undercutting efforts to save money.