Simple Economics Too Complicated for Lou Dobbs?

I walked past a television at the hospital today, and Lou Dobbs was bemoaning that families could no longer afford college, though I’m sure his can. It seems to me that college tuition has always been expensive. There are many within living memory who were the first in their families to attend college. But it also seems to me as a naive observer that the explanation for the sharp increase in tuition costs over the past 20 years is relatively simple: demand exceeds supply. Why demand exceeds supply is a different question, but, again, I think that’s relatively simple: demand is increased by employers asking for college degrees because of the deflated value of a high school diploma — people think they need a college degree to get a good job — and supply is constrained by the accreditation process.

I think the same applies to health care costs, but think that the difference there is in the treatment of health insurance as a third-party payor rather than as a means to reduce one’s own risk.

In both cases, I do agree that they may be of great concern to voters — at least to those who also happen to be journalists — but I don’t think that a $500 Pell grant will significantly reduce the cost of a $40,000 tuition, nor that requiring health insurance for all citizens will reduce the demand for an over-priced good. Nor, even, that either is any business of the Federal government.

Sins of Omission

I’m bothered by The Media’s self-imposed role as society’s filter, particularly when it comes to elections. Take this very interesting electoral season for example. There’s no incumbent running for President, so it’s considered a “wide-open” race. Would that it were so.

In some cases the filtering is with adjectives, such as “front-runner,” a somewhat meaningless designation indicating which horse is in the lead at a given point in the race, made even more meaningless because it was used even before the gates opened. In other cases the filtering is with debate invitations. In others, with simple lists of the candidates. Take, for example, this nifty reworking of the New York Times’ results page.

There’s one problem: They lie.

As far as you can tell from this list, the only candidates are Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson. There are more, though some of them have dropped out. Click through to the detailed results, where the percentages aren’t rounded. On the Democratic side, there are Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, and the dropouts Joe Biden, Christopher Dodd, and Bill Richardson. On the Republican, Duncan Hunter, Ron Paul, and the dropout Tom Tancredo. Bill Richardson put up a respectable showing for someone who would have been completely ignored by the journalists if he weren’t an Hispanic with an Anglo name. Ron Paul beat Giuliani in Iowa and Michigan, and Thompson in New Hampshire and Michigan; his 10% showing in Iowa, 7.7% in New Hampshire and 6.3% showing in Michigan completely disappears in the overview page. Heck, Dennis Kucinich got more votes in New Hampshire than Fred Thompson. I suppose Rudy’s there because New Yorkers are on a first-name basis with him, and Fred because, well, Law & Order is set in New York.

It’s an interesting race this year, even mediated. Stop filtering it.

Questions for the Candidates

Here are a couple of elementary civics questions which should be asked of the candidates.

What are the responsibilities of the President? Alternately, what is the job of the President? The answer is not “heal the sick, cure the lame, and raise the dead.”

The business of the Executive is to enforce the laws of the United States. Under what circumstances would you refuse to enforce a law passed by Congress?