Category: Economics

An Ounce of Prevention Could Save Billions

DANA GOLDMAN, director of USC’s Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, talked to Gina Kolata about reining in healthcare costs by improving access to preventative care.

The Q&A originally appeared in the New York Times.

How much are we spending on treating diseases that might be prevented?

The most consistent estimates, and most widely cited, seem to come out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lobbying groups like the Tobacco-Free Kids initiative, and the president’s prevention initiative. Instead of blanket measures, they focus more on diseases relating to “lifestyle” decisions like obesity and smoking, and their estimates include costs for lost productivity in addition to medical expenses.

Life at the Extremes — Not Really

DAVID TREUER, professor of English, USC Dornsife.

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

During the election cycle we tend to ask: What does America mean; where are we going? And then someone decides to check on the Indians to find out the answer, as though Indians represent America’s soul hidden in the attic. And of course politicians have long stood next to their “souls” and posed for pictures on the campaign trail.

Within the last year, Diane Sawyer and “20/20” did a special on the sorry conditions at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, and the New Yorker featured a grim photo essay on Pine Ridge too. The New York Times published a piece on brutal crime at the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming and another on the deep financial problems at Foxwoods, the Pequot-owned “world’s largest” casino in Connecticut. Indians make the news, but the news

The Great California Exodus?

DOWELL MYERS, demographer and planning professor, USC Price School of Public Policy

This op-ed originally appeared at Zocalo.

California, you might think, is a terrible place that people are fleeing from. One reason you might think so is that a cottage industry of pundits, business lobbyists, and politicians has been dedicated to convincing the world that California is and will remain a failure until our prevailing cultural and political climate changes. In this game, demographics are treated like a football. But the people of California are the demographics, and they may not like being tossed about.

What Brought L.A. Back From the 1992 Riots

MANUEL PASTOR, director of USC’s Program for Environmental and Regional Equity, and KAFI BLUMENFIELD, president and CEO Liberty Hill Foundation.

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

In 1992, the acquittal of four police officers accused of beating Rodney King was the match that ignited a city, setting off a wave of violence that left 53 dead, thousands injured and hundreds of businesses destroyed.

There was a lot of accumulated tinder to burn. Los Angeles was struggling with a faltering and de-industrialized economy that left too many without good jobs, a wave of demographic transition that caused ethnic and generational tensions, and a widening gap between rich and poor that was just beginning to emerge into public view — a bit like the U.S. today.

Keeping L.A.’s 30/10 Transit Plan on Track

LISA SCHWEITZER, associate professor, USC Price School

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

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa‘s 30/10 plan may be in trouble. The proposal calls for borrowing from the federal government over 10 years the total amount expected to be raised and repaid over 30 years from a half-cent sales tax authorized by L.A. County voters in 2008. With the money, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority could complete transit and highway projects in 10 years instead of 30.

However, on March 29, Congress extended federal transportation spending for only 90 days — the ninth such action since 2009 — to avoid a complete shutdown of Washington-funded highway work. Funds for the mayor’s proposal were not part of the bill. The possibility of movement won’t come until after the November elections, and even that may be a pipe dream.

The 30/10 financing model, widely heralded among transportation experts, thus appears to be another hostage to partisan acrimony in Washington. A two-year bill, which passed 72 to 22 in the Senate, included financing for the 30/10 plan, but Democrats in the House could not force a vote on the legislation. Some House Republicans simply do not want to expand federal loan programs, which they believe encourage overbuilding and mismanagement.

There are options that do not depend on Washington pulling itself together. But Villaraigosa must first decide what is truly important about his plan: fast-tracking the money or developing a model for the federal government to do so. That’s a debate worth having because there are three options for fast-tracking money into Southern California to pay for our needed transportation projects.

The first is the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank, which has been around since 1994. Because California’s economy is bigger than that of most countries, it can finance much of its own infrastructure. The bank has an AAA credit rating and thus can offer competitive rates. It has helped fund some large projects, including the Bay Bridge‘s deck replacement. Given its modest size, the bank probably wouldn’t bankroll more than a handful of projects at once, so Los Angeles would need to prioritize its projects. But then, nobody really expected the feds to finance the entire 30/10 wish list either.

Villaraigosa also could look overseas for some fast money. The European Investment Bank has lent money to 78 countries to build highways and transit projects, the bulk of it to member states of the European Union. Although the bank has not financed a project in the United States, its mission is to foster infrastructure projects that support EU goals, among them slowing global warming. The 30/10 plan has multiple transit projects — the Westside subway and the Green Line/LAX extension — that dovetail nicely with this environmental goal. Villaraigosa could make an unprecedented proposal to the European bank. What’s the worst that could happen? It says no and mocks our soccer teams ?

Romney’s Wealth Effect

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

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

“Why is someone who is so good at making money so bad at talking about it?

Mitt Romney is not the first presidential candidate who’s had trouble communicating with working-class voters: John Kerry famously enjoyed wind-surfing, and George Bush blamed a poor showing in a straw poll on the fact that many of his supporters were

You Can’t Export American Universities

C.L. MAX NIKIAS, president of USC:

This op-ed originally appeared on CNN.com

“America’s research universities have been franchising their campuses overseas, in an effort to reach students in emerging markets that seem to promise an academic gold rush. These universities would better serve the national interest by revaluing the benefits of recruiting the best of the rest of the world to the United States.

The United States’ 50 best research universities have emerged as the American asset that other nations most envy. So it was only a matter of time before other nations would begin to

The Importance of Oscar Night — Showing up and Being Photographed

ELIZABETH CURRID-HALKETT, assistant professor USC Price School of Public Policy:

This article originally appeared in Salon.

“This Sunday, hundreds of Hollywood’s brightest stars will cram into the Academy Awards. Among them will be George Clooney, Michelle Williams and many of the best-known names of the entertainment industry — along with lots and lots of people you’ve barely heard of, forming an endless stream of anonymous penguins and haute couture gowns.

It’s not exactly headline news that being nominated for an Oscar can catapult the careers and celebrity status of newcomers like Jennifer Lawrence. What most people don’t know is that Oscar night is even more important to the invited non-nominees – those donning tuxes,

Behind Ocsar’s Nostalgia: Self-Loathing

NEAL GABLER, senior fellow, USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center:

This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

“This is the Oscars’ year of nostalgia — or at least that has been the pronouncement among observers. There is, of course, “The Artist,” a silent film set in the silent film era. There is Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo,” which is the story of the rediscovery of one of the early pioneers of the movies, the French director George Méliès. There is Woody Allen’s”Midnight in Paris” in which the protagonist slips through a hole in time into the Paris of the expatriate