Tag: USC Price

The 21st Century Silver Spoon

ELIZABETH CURRID-HALKETT, associate professor of urban planning, USC’s Price School.

This op-ed originally appeared in the New York Times on Nov. 10.

In 1899, the sociologist Thorstein Veblen scathingly critiqued what he called the “conspicuous consumption” of America’s upper class. The rich were so obsessed with their social status, he wrote, that they would go to gratuitous lengths to signal it. His famous example was silver flatware: handcrafted silver spoons, though no more “serviceable” than and hardly distinguishable from aluminum ones, conferred high social rank and signaled membership in what he called the “leisure class.”

A silver spoon is no longer a mark of elite status. Take the nation’s top 10 percent of households. The top 1 percent — those making more than $394,000 annually — are today’s version of Veblen’s leisure class in terms of wealth, but they are not the biggest buyers of silver flatware. Instead, households in the rest of this high-earning cohort — those making between $114,000 and just under $394,000 — take the silver prize.

Can Data Build a Better L.A. Government?

CHRISTOPHER WEARE, research associate professor, USC Price School of Public Policy, and JULIET ANN MUSSO, associate professor, USC Price.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Oct. 21.

Last week, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled the first specifics of his plan to modernize the city’s sprawling bureaucracy, posting on his website some of the metrics by which he intends to hold city departments accountable for delivering services. They include such measurements as Fire Department response times and speed of graffiti removal and pothole repair.

The mayor’s attempt to improve performance is certainly timely. A recent USC Price/L.A. Times poll found that Angelenos want better services. For example, more than 60% of respondents were dissatisfied with the state of street repair in the city. But metrics and data collection alone won’t solve the city’s problems. Garcetti will also need to transform the culture of city government and convince city workers that the changes will stick.

California’s High-Speed Rail Needs a New Mandate

LISA SCHWEITZER, associate professor, USC Price.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Sept. 11.

Over the last few weeks, the California High-Speed Rail Authority both lost and won fairly significant battles. It lost when a Sacramento County Superior Court judge ruled that its proposed funding plan violated the voter-approved law, Proposition 1A, that created the agency. The judge has set a hearing to give the state a chance to show that it can comply with the law and environmental reviews.

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.

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 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.

Career vs. Family in the Halls of Academia

ELIZABETH CURRID-HALKETT, associate professor, USC Price School of Public Policy.

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

I recently had coffee with one of my top doctoral students, a woman in her late 20s. After years of slogging through data sets for her dissertation, she told me she would finish her doctorate in public policy but not pursue a career in academia. Stunned, I asked why. She was about to get married and hoped to start a family, she said, and she’d concluded that she couldn’t be the mother she aspired to be and a contestant in the pressure-filled tenure-track race at the same time.

Colleagues at other universities tell me similar stories of star female students either abandoning career ambitions or “underplacing” themselves — turning down prestigious fellowships and accepting jobs at less competitive universities — so they can focus on raising children and enjoying family life.

California Needs a Politics Rooted in 2012, Not 1978

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

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

At the root of California’s dysfunctional politics lie some old ideas about who we are as a state. Demographics have been more volatile here than in other states, and many Californians older than 55, who make up roughly 46% of state voters, don’t want to pay for changes they never welcomed. The tragedy is that they are battling problems that have largely dissipated. The outlook for California going forward from 2012 is very different from what it was two decades ago.

Take population growth. The 1980s brought an unprecedented growth spurt for the state, with population increasing by some 6.1 million people. This far exceeded the population growth of 3.7 million people in the 1970s and 4.3 million in the 1960s.

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.