The conventions are over and the parties' nominees officiated. So let's start with a cartoon:
Playing a leading role in the campaign is the economic situation for voters, and the finger-pointing about whose fault it is continues. In the American Conservative, Milton Ezrati says the arrogance of Wall Street is partially to blame for fueling a populist movement:
In the New York financial community, where your correspondent spent much of his career, a person can earn suspicion from one’s colleagues just by showing respect for members of the general public. The contempt has gone so far that bankers and money managers entirely forget whose money they are moving and act as if it is simply a vehicle through which they can make money for themselves...
If the success of Trump and Sanders is any indication, a significant portion of the American public wants to dislodge this failed and self-serving elite, whether they work on Wall Street or inside the Beltway. In both men these voters could not find a more awkward way of accomplishing their goal, but even with stronger champions, the displacement would be tough.
Perhaps most interesting is the way in which Wall Street has been unwelcome in this campaign season, writes Joshua Green in Bloomberg:
In an election as sharply divided as any, the theme of Wall Street perfidy has emerged as a rare point of agreement, with the major partisan conflict revolving around who’s better suited to rein it in. Some believe all this is the inevitable culmination of decades of middle-class wage stagnation. Others believe we’re seeing the aftershock of the financial crisis, which roiled an earlier election. Eight years ago, the economy and stock market were in free fall, and the imperative was to “break the back of the crisis,” as Obama’s first Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, liked to put it. Now, with the economy growing steadily and the Dow Jones industrial average pushing all-time highs, public attention has returned to what Sanders, in his convention speech, called “the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street.”
Whatever the cause, leaders in both parties are convinced that punishing Wall Street is good politics.
Over at the Week, James Pethokoukis says this election is more complex than just thinking about the health of the economy:
In his 2005 book The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, Harvard University economist Benjamin Friedman argued that the value of rising living standards is hardly limited to the cool stuff it provides us. Just as importantly, Friedman wrote, economic growth "more often than not fosters greater opportunity, tolerance of diversity, social mobility, commitment to fairness, and dedication to democracy."...
The shared prosperity of a dynamic economy may not be the only thing needed for a flourishing society of openness and opportunity, but it sure helps. Maybe this election is about "the culture, stupid." But don't forget about economic growth.
In the Washington Post, Robert Samuelson discusses the ways in which this election mood might be tied to "unrealistic expectations":
We had paradise for a fleeting moment — and then it was lost. It is the subconscious comparison between the imperfect present and the idealized past (of the late 1990s) that feeds our disappointment. Otherwise, our situation might seem less desperate. After all, the economy has created more than 14 million jobs since the employment low point. What’s missing is the sense of boundless optimism and national superiority that characterized the boom years.
Americans are now said to be “angry” and to demand “change.” This is misleading. In the past two decades, Americans have had more change than they’ve wanted. What they’d really like is to repeal the changes — the economic uncertainties, the physical threats, the geopolitical challenges — and revert to the romanticized world of the late 1990s, when the outlook seemed more tranquil.
In the New Republic, Ned Resnikoff, after following both conventions, discusses the reasons why discussion of the middle class have largely been supplanted in political debate in favor of the working class. Resnikoff argues there is a stark split between the two camps that represent both racial and class divisions:
Trump gave special mention to steel workers, coal miners, and factory workers because in the public imagination those three industries continue to be associated with the white working class—and the white male working class in particular. The same applies, to a lesser extent, to his frequent invocations of police officers. The economic importance of these jobs is secondary to what they represent: the relative white affluence and privilege of the immediate post-war era...
The DNC, meanwhile, has thus far emphasized industries that are both more diverse and central to the modern U.S. economy. The convention’s speaker list includes an NYPD officer and the wife of a factory worker, but it also features a social worker, a high school principal, a former pizzeria employee, and a home health-care worker. That roster offers a much closer approximation of the makeup of America’s twenty-first-century labor force.
The state of Massachusetts is considering taxing nonprofits in part because large nonprofits, such as universities, are reducing much needed real estate taxes, reports the Boston Globe:
For years, some nonprofits — including in Lowell — have been making so-called payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTs, to compensate for public services provided by the community, such as roads and policing. These payment are voluntarily, however, and nonprofit participation is uneven...“The new normal is that there’s always going to be tight finances at the local level,” Beckwith said, “and the extent to which nonprofits refuse to contribute will lead to either higher taxes on other taxpayers, or a deterioration in the services provided locally.”
Nonprofits mightily reject that argument, pointing out they make invaluable community contributions that are difficult to measure in dollars.
The Manhattan Institute's Diana Furchtgott-Roth looks at the slow growth of CaLPERs and concludes socially responsible investing doesn't hold up to its name:
To fulfill its social responsibility goals, CalPERS does not invest in tobacco stocks and bonds. Over the past year, the NYSA Arca Tobacco Index increased about 15%. During the same time period, the S&P 500 Index increased only 2%. In 2013, following the Sandy Hook shooting, CalPERS divested itself of $5 million invested in firearms manufacturers. In 2010, it allocated $500 million to HSBC Climate Change Index-benchmarked Global Equity Environmental Index Fund, which CalPERS admits returned half the gains seen from its Global Equity Policy Benchmark since its inception (6.61% compared to 12.79%). It was also co-chair of the UN’s Environmental Programme Finance Initiative, which focuses on reducing energy consumption. Additionally, CalPERS monitors companies for unfriendly labor policies.
In the Nonprofit Quarterly, we have a look at the struggles against gentrification adjacent to large institutions and what it means for cities like Baltimore and Buffalo:
Rather than engaging the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus in a discussion of their plans, the Fruit Belt neighborhood is pushing Buffalo City Council to create a neighborhood land trust for vacant city-owned land. Having a nonprofit land trust can permit residents to negotiate from a position of strength as de facto property owners...
Relationships between universities and hospitals and their surrounding residential communities don’t need to be adversarial. Pittsburgh provides a model for how a hospital conversion foundation is fostering a kind of “gentle gentrification” for residents in Pittsburgh’s South Side neighborhood [using mission investing].
According to Bloomberg, the guys managing Harvard's endowment are in a bit of a pickle:
After years of missteps, controversy and even crisis, Harvard Management Corp., which oversees the university’s $37.6 billion endowment, began assembling a new corps of equity traders and analysts in 2014, in hopes of recapturing a part of the investment magic that had once made the fund the envy of the world.
Only now, just two years later, that plan has collapsed. Stephen Blythe, 48, the former bond trader behind that effort, stepped down as HMC’s chief executive Wednesday for personal reasons after just 18 months on the job. His resignation follows the departure in June of Michael Ryan and Robert Howard, the two former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. partners he had brought in to guide the new equity strategy.
Also to all us eye-rollers, joke's on us, the ice bucket challenge actually delivered, writes James Surowiecki:
It raised a reported two hundred and twenty million dollars worldwide for A.L.S. organizations; in just eight weeks, the American A.L.S. Association received thirteen times as much in contributions as what it had in the whole of the preceding year.
In the New York Times, former Bush administration official Diane Ravitch discusses why the No Child Left Behind law and the implementation of common core hurts poor students:
Standardized tests are best at measuring family income. Well-off students usually score in the top half of results; students from poor homes usually score in the bottom. The quest to “close achievement gaps” is vain indeed when the measure of achievement is a test based on a statistical norm. If we awarded driver’s licenses based on standardized tests, half the adults in this country might never receive one. The failure rates on the Common Core tests are staggeringly high for black and Hispanic children, students with disabilities and English-language learners. Making the tests harder predictably depresses test scores, creating a sense of failure and hopelessness among young children.
If we really cared about improving the education of all students, we would give teachers the autonomy to tailor instruction to meet the needs of the children in front of them and to write their own tests. We would insist that students in every school had an equal opportunity to learn in well-maintained schools, in classes of reasonable size taught by expert teachers. Anyone who wants to know how students in one state compare with students in other states can get that information from the N.A.E.P., the existing federal test.
Over at the Billfold, editor Ester Bloom expresses frustration at her supposed revelation:
That booming sound you hear is masses of educators and administrators and David Simon all banging their heads against the wall, because they’ve been saying that for probably decades by now and it’s nice that Wraith has joined them, but couldn’t she have come to this realization when she actually had a position of prominence and the means to make change?
Oh well. Better late than never, I guess.
When the thing test scores most reliably tell you is how much money the test-taker’s family has, then yes, it’s time to throw out both the tests and the obsessive focus on them, and to instead bring back art and phys ed, to reduce class sizes, to get kids learning earlier and to make schools pleasanter places in which to learn. But the larger lesson can’t be overlooked: the effects of poverty and segregation hold children back, and children can’t advance without efforts to address those larger systemic problems.
In the Atlantic, Mikhail Zinshteyn looks at a new study finding that wealthy students do not get a disproportionate amount of student aid:
Though richer students tend to enroll at elite public universities, they also pay more in tuition, helping to offset how much of an indirect subsidy they receive. At the most selective public schools, poor students receive roughly $2,300 more in subsidies than rich students—or 25 percent more. The gap is wider at slightly less-selective public colleges. When looking at all students in the U.S., poorer students account for 37 percent of the entire college-going student body and receive 39 percent of all indirect subsidies. Wealthy students, who make up 21 percent of the public university student body, receive less than 20 percent of the available indirect subsidies. The report notes that though poor students are less likely to attend a top-tier public university than rich students, there are vastly more poor students nationwide, so their representation at top-tier public colleges is almost even. (The report could only provide national-level data and cautioned that state-by-state variation is likely.)
Finally in TIME, Heron grantee Carol Glazer, head of the National Organization on Disability, discusses why "the tyranny of low expectations" prevents people from fully participating in society:
As children, while the special education system teaches independent living or “life skills” (like cooking, personal hygiene and travel training), far too little attention is given to skills that can be used in the workforce. It’s no wonder then that only about one in five working-age Americans with disabilities is employed. The public benefits system—despite efforts at reform—reinforces the expectation that people with disabilities aren’t expected to work; and an outdated statute from 1938 means that people with disabilities can still be paid less than minimum wage to perform menial tasks in a segregated work setting. Proposed new federal legislation aims to remedy that problem, but it has yet to pass.