How the Media Distorts College Admissions

FiveThirtyEight: “Here’s how the national media usually depicts the admissions process: High school seniors spend months visiting colleges; writing essays; wrangling letters of recommendation; and practicing, taking and retaking an alphabet soup of ACTs, SATs and AP exams. Then the really hard part: months of nervously waiting to find out if they are among the lucky few (fewer every year, we’re told!) with the right blend of academic achievement, extracurricular involvement and an odds-defying personal story to gain admission to their favored university.”

“Here’s the reality: Most students never have to write a college entrance essay, pad a résumé or sweet-talk a potential letter-writer. Nor are most, as The Atlantic put it Monday, ‘obsessively checking their mailboxes’ awaiting acceptance decisions. (Never mind that for most schools, those decisions now arrive online.) According to data from the Department of Education,1 more than three-quarters of U.S. undergraduates2 attend colleges that accept at least half their applicants; just 4 percent attend schools that accept 25 percent or less, and hardly any — well under 1 percent — attend schools like Harvard and Yale that accept less than 10 percent.”

Reversing Trade Deficit Could Make America Less Great

New York Times: “Donald Trump believes that a half-trillion-dollar trade deficit with the rest of the world makes the United States a loser and countries with trade surpluses like China and Mexico winners.”

“The reality is different. Trade deficits are not inherently good or bad; they can be either, depending on circumstances. The trade deficit is not a scorecard.”

“What’s more, eliminating the trade deficit would not, on its own, make America great again, as Mr. Trump promises. And in isolation, the fact that the United States has a trade deficit does not prove that trade agreements are bad for Americans, a staple of Bernie Sanders’s campaign in the Democratic presidential primary. In fact, trying to eliminate the trade deficit could mean giving up some of the key levers of power that allow the United States to get its way in international politics.”

“Getting rid of the trade deficit could very well make America less great. The reasons have to do with the global reserve currency, economic diplomacy and something called the Triffin dilemma.”

Car Dealers Get Pushed Out by Political Ads

“When political campaigns begin to flood local TV markets with commercials, car dealers get squeezed for airtime more than any other advertisers,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Local automotive dealers predominantly buy ads during the local news—the same programming where political campaigns and outside groups concentrate much of their spending, according to research from analytics firm Kantar Media. In fact, Kantar Media’s analysis of eight markets in 2014 showed that car dealers ran slightly more than half of all their ads during local news shows, while more than 60% of political ads appeared on those same programs.”

Wall Street Pushes Back on Trading Tax

“Wall Street is mobilizing against proposals to tax financial transactions as the idea gains attention on the campaign trail and in Congress,” The Hill reports.

“The idea already has one high-profile supporter, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who has proposed legislation in the Senate for a tax on the trade of stocks and other securities.”

“Supporters say a financial transaction tax (FTT) would deter market speculation. But the industry and other critics are expanding efforts to stop the proposal, saying it would weaken markets and hurt small investors, especially Americans trying to save for retirement. Retirement money is often invested in mutual funds that trade frequently to maximize returns.”

Two Issues Have Fueled Trump’s Rise

Washington Post: “There is considerable evidence that Donald Trump has built his national lead in the Republican president primary on a powerful combination of economic anxiety, frustration with Washington and, in particular, concerns over immigration. Interviews with voters reveal it again and again, and so do public opinion polls.”

“You can see signs of it in this nifty new Wall Street Journal interactive that shows 4 out of 5 Trump supporters believe immigration (not just illegal immigration — all immigration) hurts the United States more than it helps. A majority say free trade is bad for America. Other groups of GOP voters look more kindly on trade and immigrants.”

“More directly, two questions in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll show how Trump is drawing lopsided support in the Republican field from voters who worry about the economy and about immigrants.”

It’s Not Just Flint

Washington Post: “In a new paper just out in the open-access journal Environmental Research Letters, sociologist Mary Collins of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry and two colleagues from the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center and the University of Maryland examined what they term “hyper-polluters”: Industrial facilities that, based on EPA data, generate disproportionately large amounts of air pollution. Then, they cross-referenced the location of these facilities with socio-demographic data from the 2000 census.”

The result: “We find striking evidence that extreme emitters are likely impacting EJ [environmental justice] communities even more significantly than typical EJ scholarship might predict.”

“The study adds to a body of evidence showing that the U.S. continues to struggle when it comes to ‘environmental justice,’ a concept advanced by advocates and researchers to describe the reality that poor and minority communities tend to have disproportionate exposures to environmental hazards.”

CBO Projections Highlight a Broken Budget Process

Wall Street Journal: “It should be no surprise that the Congressional Budget Office projections published this week are as bad as they have become. More than $100 billion was added to the deficit projection for this year alone, much of it from the spending-and-tax-cuts bonanza Congress and the president went on last year. Going forward, more than $10 trillion is projected to be added to the debt by 2026.”

“This makes putting together a meaningful budget resolution all the more difficult. Last year Republicans passed a budget resolution that got to balance by 2024. But it was so tough to stick to that policy makers ignored many of the major components of their own budget. They failed to follow through on any major entitlement savings and ultimately passed almost $700 billion worth of taxcuts that weren’t in their budget. The same lawmakers who agreed to a budget that had $5.8 trillion in savings over 10 years added $750 billion to the debt instead.”

“This year they will need to find an additional $2.2 trillion in savings if they want to get to balance in 10 years. Realistically speaking, that’s just not going to happen.”

Budget Deficit Slips as Priority

Pew Research: “As Barack Obama begins his final year in office, the goal of reducing the budget deficit, which the public once ranked among the most pressing objectives for his administration, has continued its recent decline in perceived importance.”

Budget deficit slips as public priority“Overall, 56% say that reducing the budget deficit should be a top priority for the president and Congress in 2016, down from 64% who said this last year. The emphasis given to the budget deficit peaked in 2013, the first year of Obama’s second term, when 72% called it a top priority. At that time, the deficit ranked behind only improving the job situation and the economy on the public’s to-do list. Today, reducing the budget deficit ranks ninth in priority out of 18 policy areas tested in the survey.”

“The latest national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted Jan. 7-14 among 2,009 adults, finds that strengthening the nation’s economy and defending the country from future terrorist attacks rank atop the public’s priority list: 75% each say these should be top priorities for the country. These also were the public’s two most important policy goals in 2015.”