Category: Politics

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.

Privatizing the Public University

WILLIAM TIERNEY, director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education, USC’s Rossier School of Education.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Recently a committee of the University of California’s Academic Senate effectively threw cold water on the plans of UCLA’s Anderson School of Management to take its M.B.A. program private.

The plan was for the program to give up state funds and, in return, for the state to give the school more leeway in issues such as setting tuition. The school’s faculty and the UCLA Senate had approved the plans, but it ran into unanimous opposition from a committee of the Academic Senate. It was troubled that donors might have too much influence, that faculty priorities might shift, and that costs would rise without sufficient financial aid for poorer students.

The Truth Could Set Them Free

DAN SIMON, professor of law and psychology, USC Gould School of Law.

This op-ed originally appeared at the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Stripping people of their liberty or life is one of the most solemn tasks exercised by liberal democracies. Yet, bizarrely, the American criminal-justice system pays too little regard to the factual accuracy of its verdicts.

Consider the steady trickle of exonerations, which occur at a rate few observers would have predicted not long ago. The recently launched National Registry of Exonerations lists the details of 989 exonerees since 1989, and the Innocence Project reports on 300 convicted inmates who have been exonerated based on DNA testing alone. (An additional group of 1,170 defendants have been exonerated in 13 “group exonerations” that followed major police scandals.) No doubt, the actual number of false convictions is much higher.

Making Universities and Colleges More Military Friendly

RON AVI ASTOR, professor of urban social development, Schools of Education and Social Work

This op-ed originally appeared at the Huffington Post.

Relations between academia and the military services are not known for their cordiality. The flash point was the Vietnam War. Campuses across the country were incubators of the anti-war movement and arenas for major protests. Many units of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps were shut down, especially at the Ivies. More recently, the government’s “Don’t-Ask-Don’t Tell” policy for gays was a source of friction at some universities.

Holding the L.A. District Attorney to a Higher Standard

DAN SIMON, professor of law and psychology, USC’s Gould School of Law.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Daily Journal.

To its credit, the Los Angeles district attorney’s office did not ignore the cry for freedom from a condemned inmate. As a result, convicted murderer John Edward Smith is a free man after a DA investigation learned that the sole prosecution witness had falsely identified Smith as the perpetrator in a 1993 drive-by shooting. The accuser now claims that he pointed the finger at Smith only after being misled and pressured by Los Angeles police detectives.

Smith’s ordeal demonstrates how our criminal justice process can go wrong, and it highlights why fixing the process should be at the center of the race between Jacky Lacey and Alan Jackson for office of the DA.

Los Angeles County has had its fair share of faulty criminal prosecutions. Since 1989, 26 Angelinos have been declared factually innocent after having been convicted and sentenced to prison. That’s about double the rate of exonerations in the rest of California, and it doesn’t include more than 100 false convictions produced by the Rampart scandal in the late 1990s. The true number of false convictions is no doubt much greater. Smith was exonerated only because his new lawyer managed to locate his accuser, and he was eager to recant. Likewise, Brian Banks of Long Beach was exonerated months ago of his conviction for rape only because his accuser “friended” him on Facebook, agreed to meet with him, and recanted her accusation on camera.

Warriors on the Edge of a Fiscal Cliff

RON AVI ASTOR, professor of urban social development, USC School of Social Work.

This op-ed originally appeared at CNN.

With the presidential race heading into its final stretch, both candidates vow to protect the sacred promises made to military families. But neither is offering any details on how they might support military families if we hit a fiscal cliff with budget cuts that could wipe out services for military and veterans’ families.

Month after month, in the midst of a heated presidential and congressional pre-election cycle, we see no organized blueprint to integrate millions of military family members into civilian society.

New China Syndrome: Richer, Unhappy

RICHARD A. EASTERLIN, professor of economics, USC Dornsife.

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

China’s new leaders, who will be anointed next month at the Communist Party’s 18th National Congress in Beijing, might want to rethink the Faustian bargain their predecessors embraced some 20 years ago: namely, that social stability could be bought by rapid economic growth.

As the recent riots at a Foxconn factory in northern China demonstrate, growth alone, even at sustained, spectacular rates, has not produced the kind of life satisfaction crucial to a stable society — an experience that shows how critically important good jobs and a strong social safety net are to people’s happiness.

A Housing Recovery That Leaves the Middle Class on the Sidelines

ROBERT BRIDGES, assistant professor clinical finance, business economics, USC’s Marshall School of Business.

This op-ed originally appeared at Forbes.

It would seem that a government seeking to display a true populist streak by helping its citizens buy houses would do so in a way to ensure prices as low as possible. For those who are not yet homeowners, how is it populism when recovery makes houses more expensive rather than more affordable?

For some time now, demand for houses has been artificially boosted by federal and state tax policies, rising governmental involvement in residential-debt financing, and persistently low interest rates orchestrated by the Federal Reserve. This intensified demand has not been relieved by sufficient new supply of houses, resulting in intractable upward pricing pressure that has put home-ownership beyond the reach of growing numbers of moderate-income buyers. Future housing markets are likely to be increasingly vulnerable to destructive price swings if credit-fueled demand and no-growth sentiment continue to flourish.

The Great Diversion: Romney’s Taxes

EDWARD J. McCAFFERY, professor of law, economics and political science, USC’s Gould School of Law.

This op-ed originally appeared at CNN.

By now, most of us have probably heard that Mitt and Ann Romney paid just under $2 million in taxes on income — virtually all from investments — of just under $14 million for 2011, an effective tax rate of 14.1%. This is a low tax rate, lower than the typical middle-class American worker pays, especially when one considers payroll taxes, the largest burden for most Americans. It should concern us that individuals of Romney’s wealth — analysis has put his personal fortune as high as $250 million, not counting some $100 million in trusts set up for his five children — pay so little as a percent in taxes.