What should I do to ring out the decade? I know! Let’s make people mad at me. With that in mind, here’s a (non-exhaustive) list of things that lots of liberals believe even though they shouldn’t.
- Head Start (and similar pre-K programs) raise student achievement. There’s evidence that they have positive effects on many things, which makes universal pre-K one of my favorite social programs. But their effect on long-term academic performance ranges from zero to small, depending on the study.
- American health care is expensive because of private insurance. Nope. It’s expensive because health care providers charge way more than they do anywhere else. This includes doctors, nurses, pharmaceutical companies, device manufacturers, hospitals, and so forth. Insurance adds a little bit to that, but it’s nowhere near our biggest problem.
- We have a retirement crisis. There’s virtually no evidence that retirement is any worse today than it used to be. Ditto for future retirement. In fact, the over-65 demographic is doing better than any other age group. That said, Social Security for the bottom third of the income distribution has always been too stingy, and we ought to increase it.
- The black/white test score difference is all about test prep, biased tests, etc. At most, the best evidence suggests that things like test prep account for a small fraction of the black-white difference in test scores. This is important. The black-white gap in education is one of America’s biggest failures, and the only way to fix it is to acknowledge that it’s real, not to toss it off as merely a statistical artifact.
- The 1994 crime act was responsible for mass incarceration. Mass incarceration started in the mid-70s, and by the mid-90s prison space had more than quadrupled. The 1994 crime act had only a tiny effect on prison building, and by 1998 the total number of prisoners had already begun to decline. For what it’s worth, black incarceration rates have also dropped substantially over the past couple of decades.
- Charter schools don’t work. Some of them work, some of them don’t. Instead of pretending that they’re all failures, we should be putting our energy into figuring out why the good ones work and how we can learn from them.
I would now like some good conservative to create a similar list for his colleagues. Obviously you can start with the whole business of tax cuts supercharging the economy, but I want half a dozen more beyond that.