Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Who's to blame for the problems in California?

by Andrew Gillen

Rich and I have been agreeing a lot with Kevin Carey lately, but this post is just downright strange. In it, Carey essentially wants to blame the current mess that is California on conservatives for something they did in 1978, while assigning no blame to the liberals who have been running the state for most of the time since.

California taxed like conservatives and spent like liberals. This is not sustainable, and you can certainly blame conservatives when this happens and they are in power (eg, at the federal level from 2003-2006).

But it’s very strange to try to blame them when they aren’t in power, as was the case in California. Given the state’s cumbersome Constitutional requirements, the reliance on voter initiatives, and the fact that Republicans did have the governorship for about 2/3rds of the time post 1978, you can’t blame liberals entirely for the current mess. But they certainly deserve more blame than conservatives given that they have controlled both houses in the legislature for all but 2 of the 32 years since prop 13 was passed.


Hunter said...

Who cares?

What benefit is served by arguing who is at fault for practices that have now resulted in a huge problem. Rather than engaging in finger pointing, I would suggest studying the problem to determine what caused it and fix it.

Time spent attempting to affix blame is time that would be better used to resolve the problem.

Infantile debates over fault is the centerpiece of modern day politics. People want common sense solutions to problems. And they want the problems fixed. If you are building a house and someone who is being paid by the hour cuts a stud too short, is it better to stand around and bitch about it or cut another stud and move on?

It is easy to point out problems. It is hard to implement solutions.

CCAP's strength is in the former. CCAP's weakness (or absence) is the latter.

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~ said...

Hunter, if you want solutions, why don't you read our studies.


Overlook said...

I have been following the CCAP Blog since its inception - or close to it. I believe researching problems is about half the job. The other half would be solving the problems the research uncovers. CCAP does offer solutions; but do those solutions take hold and result in positive change in productivity and affordability for the people they speak for? Or, is CCAP spinning its wheels?

Those few of us who read this blog are provided with a daily dose of commentary, and to an extent, a clearing house for other publications.

I have read almost all of CCAP's blogs regarding problems in higher education. What I haven't read is how CCAP has affected any change in higher education that deals with productivity or affordability. There is one possible exception which is the Forbes/CCAP college rankings which has provided an alternative to the USNWR college rankings. But has this produced reduced costs or increased productivity in higher ed?

In the press, CCAP is often referred to as a "Think Tank". Think tanks do all types of research. But what is the result? And is the result measureable? Can the value be determined? In my experience the end product is policy papers.

Compare that to medical research - let's use cancer research as an example of research, developing solutions, and implementing them. In recent years, research on cancer has resulted in the discovery of how tumors/lesions grow and evade chemotherapy.

Take for example, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) and angiogenesis and its relationship to cancer such as (clear cell) Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC). You can read about VEGF and angiogenesis here and here. This is a major coup in figuring out how cancer grows. From this understanding, many "targeted" therapies have been developed and used, and continue to be developed in clinical trials. The targeted therapies find the tumor(s) or lesion(s) and kill them with varying degrees of efficacy and effectiveness, most commonly dependent on what stage the cancer is in - I, II, III, IV. But cancer researchers are not just regurgitating problems. No, they are finding solutions and putting them to work.

Today genetics are in play in the prediction and discovery of cancer. Soon, genetics will be used to cure cancer. Maybe not in one fell swoop, but cancer by cancer, real, measurable progress is being made.

So what is my point? It is this: If you had some money to donate to research, would you give it to a research "Think Tank" that produces policy reports and studies; or would you donate your money to research that is saving lives (especially children)? Think tanks, public policy institutes, and researchers who expose problems that work against people are noble causes and do have a place in society. But for me, I would rather look into the eyes of a sick child and/or loved one and reassure them that help is on the way. But I digress.

When leaving a comment on CCAP's blog, one is never sure if it is ever read. It is not an interactive blog. Aside from the rare reply from a nameless person in CCAP above, The only other replies from CCAP I have seen are in response to a ghostwriter with the handle "sciencedoc" (later changed to "capeman"). But one needs to know who "capeman's" contrarian ghostwriter is (or who he works for) to understand why this is. Maybe it is time to bring back "capeman" and the illusion of the Messiah of insolence.

With regard to the study to which you have directed Hunter, I think it is great that CCAP has a study that proposes solutions (although I have not read it). But the point Hunter is making is that if the study does not result in action, there will be no change. The study is nothing more than a dust collector. The point that you so glaringly missed is fixing the problem, and I believe that was clearly illustrated.

Daniel L. Bennett said...

You do raise a valid point about the measurable results of a think tank such as CCAP. Think tanks are essentially in the business of marketing ideas. We produce research and publicize it via the media and discussion with other thought leaders, with the goal being that the right people will be influenced enough to take our ideas and run with them.

Are our results (or other think tanks) immediately measurable in the way that medical research is? Certainly not, as our product is very different. But when our ideas make their way into the media and persons in a position to effect change begin to take notice and lobby (not in a literal sense) for market-oriented reform that is influenced by ideas similar to those that we generated, as has been happening in Indiana and a few other states, it is a result that we can take pride in and encouragement to keep up the good fight.

Hunter said...

Replying to "~". I went to the link provided by you and did not find any solutions or studies that might relate to the blog "Who's to blame for the problems in California?" You seem a bit on the back foot, but there is no context is there? No worries.

Seems Mr. Bennett has his wits about him - a real ace I'd say. And he seems to know how to relate to Yowie (Mr. Overlook).

Ian Hunter
Sydney, NSW

Overlook said...

You are correct Hunter - Daniel is an ace. And don't call me "Mr."