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NatGeo: Extinct Species

NatGeo: Extinct Species

The notion of bringing extinct species back to life has hovered at the boundary between reality and science fiction for more than two decades. De-extinction is now within reach. The species theoretically capable of being revived all disappeared while humanity was rapidly climbing toward world domination.

NYT: America the Innovative?

NYT: America the Innovative?

Although America has accounted for a sizable share of all technological innovations that have shaped our modern world, the wider historical evidence is disappointing for anyone who thinks political freedom is a fundamental precondition for innovation. Even the evidence of America’s own history undercuts the “all you need is freedom” story.

NYT: Corruption of Capitalism

NYT: Corruption of Capitalism

The Fed has resorted to a radical, uncharted spree of money printing. But the flood of liquidity has stayed trapped in the canyons of Wall Street, where it is inflating yet another unsustainable bubble. When it bursts America will descend into an era of zero-sum austerity and virulent political conflict, extinguishing even today’s feeble remnants of economic growth.

Wired: Science of Swarms

Wired: Science of Swarms

For more than a century people have tried to understand how individuals become unified groups. The secrets of the swarm hinted at a whole new way of looking at the world. But those secrets were hidden for decades. When it came to figuring out collectives, nobody had the methods or the math.

Bloomberg: Trouble with Drones

Bloomberg: Trouble with Drones

For a country exhausted after more than a decade of war, remote-controlled drones are undeniably tempting. Obama has yet to explain the basics of the broader policy, but that wall of silence is starting to erode. This new pledge of accountability comes amid growing international criticism.

Economist: US, and Europe’s Dysfunction

Economist: US, and Europe’s Dysfunction

Republicans and Democrats’ fibs rest on ill-concealed contempt for an undeserving other: the feckless poor, the immoral rich, those who live in states of the wrong partisan hue. Mutual dislike is the dirty secret that best explains European paralysis. American politicians have no business stoking it in their far more ambitious union.

Economist: US Health Policy

Economist: US Health Policy

“NANNY”, “tyrant”—these were among the charges hurled at Michael Bloomberg, New York’s mayor, when he proposed a ban on big fizzy-drink bottles last May. The billionaire shrugged and pushed forward. The American Beverage Association, which represents Coca-Cola and other soda companies, has sued.

Economist: Marijuana Legislation

Economist: Marijuana Legislation

FREE-THE-WEED campaigners speak not of “legalising” marijuana but of “taxing and regulating” it. The ballot measure they placed before Colorado’s voters last November, which won the support of 55% of them, was called the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act and contained provisions for a 15% excise tax.

Wired: Clayton Christensen

Wired: Clayton Christensen

Sixteen years ago a book by Clayton Christensen changed business thinking forever. The Innovator’s Dilemma looked at industries and exposed a surprising phenomenon: When big companies fail, it’s often not because they do something wrong but because they do everything right.

Economist: Green Steps

Economist: Green Steps

Mr Obama named the officials charged with fulfilling his climate policy: Gina McCarthy, his choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency, and Ernest Moniz, the prospective new secretary of energy. Their selection suggests that Mr Obama is indeed serious about tackling climate change, but not doctrinaire in his approach.

New Yorker: New Deal

New Yorker: New Deal

Discusses how government, and the Democratic Party, changed after the New Deal, with the onset of the Cold War and the disenchantment of Southern Democrats. Discusses the history of worries about the emergence of a new ruling class composed of bureaucrats and technocrats.

Reuters: Political Clout of Superrich

Reuters: Political Clout of Superrich

Study shows that in the United States, voting rights do not translate into much actual political power. You could predict what the government would do based on the preferences of the top 10% income level. When the preferences of middle class and poor income levels diverged from the affluent, there was no impact at all on the policies that were adopted.

NYT: Curious Grade for Teachers

NYT: Curious Grade for Teachers

Across the country, education reformers and their allies in both parties have revamped the way teachers are graded. But in Michigan, 98 percent of teachers were rated effective or better. Advocates of education reform concede that such rosy numbers, after all the development and training, are worrisome.

Brookings: American Education

Brookings: American Education

This is the twelfth edition of the Brown Center Report. Part I examines the latest data from state, national, or international assessments. Part II explores the controversial topics of tracking and ability grouping. Part III is on the national push for eighth graders to take algebra and other high school math courses.

NYT: Broader US Eavesdropping

NYT: Broader US Eavesdropping

The Supreme Court on Tuesday turned back a challenge to a federal law that broadened the government’s power to eavesdrop on international phone calls and e-mails. The ruling illustrated how hard it is to mount court challenges to a wide array of antiterrorism measures, including renditions of terrorism suspects to foreign countries and targeted killings using drones.

NYT: Riddle of Human Species

NYT: Riddle of Human Species

The task of understanding humanity is too important and too daunting to leave to the humanities. Their many branches have not explained why we possess our special nature and not some other out of a vast number of conceivable possibilities. In that sense, the humanities have not accounted for a full understanding of our species’ existence.

NYT: Our Second Adolescence

NYT: Our Second Adolescence

A dream Obama would point out that the issue is not size but sclerosis of government. The future has no lobby, so there are inexorable pressures favoring present consumption over future investment. The crucial point is not whether a dollar is spent publicly or privately, it’s whether it is spent on the present or future.

NYT: Unjust Financier Perk

NYT: Unjust Financier Perk

Of the many injustices that permeate America’s byzantine tax code, few are as outrageous as the tax rate on “carried interest” — the profits made by private equity and hedge fund managers, as well as venture capitalists and partners in real estate investment trusts. This huge tax benefit enriches an already privileged sliver of financiers and violates basic standards of fairness and common sense.

Foreign Policy: New Westphalian Web

Foreign Policy: New Westphalian Web

Nearly 365 years ago, more than 100 warring diplomats and princes got together and created the basic framework for territorial sovereignty: nation-states, demarcated by borders. But 30 years ago, humanity gave birth to the internet. With the flip of a switch, three engineers had undone the work of more than 100 princes and diplomats.

Brookings: Making Defense Affordable

Brookings: Making Defense Affordable

The U.S. government faces a tough fiscal future. Absent significant changes to current taxation and spending policies, debt held by the public will mount within two decades to levels never before experienced by this country. The consequences for the American economy and for the nation’s place in the world could be severe.

Foreign Affairs: Lean Forward

Foreign Affairs: Lean Forward

Now, more than ever, the United States might be tempted to pull back from the world. That would be a mistake, since an engaged grand strategy has served the country exceptionally well for the past six decades — helping prevent the outbreak of conflict in the world’s most important regions, keeping the global economy humming, and facilitating international cooperation.

Foreign Affairs: Pull Back

Foreign Affairs: Pull Back

The United States has consistently spent hundreds of billions of dollars per year on its military. This undisciplined, expensive, and bloody strategy has done untold harm to U.S. national security. This undisciplined strategy has done untold harm to U.S. national security. It is time to abandon the United States’ hegemonic strategy and replace it with one of restraint.

Foreign Affairs: Capitalism/Inequality

Foreign Affairs: Capitalism/Inequality

Recent political debate in the United States and other advanced capitalist democracies has been dominated by two issues: the rise of economic inequality and the scale of government intervention to address it. Inequality is increasing almost everywhere in the postindustrial capitalist world. The problem is more deeply rooted and intractable than generally recognized.

NatGeo: The Bite that Heals

NatGeo: The Bite that Heals

Venom is nature’s most efficient killer, but top medicines for heart disease and diabetes have been derived from venom. New treatments for autoimmune diseases, cancer, and pain could be available within a decade. There could be upwards of 20 million venom toxins waiting to be screened. Venom has opened up whole new avenues of pharmacology.

Reuters: Obama’s Climate Push

Reuters: Obama’s Climate Push

President Barack Obama’s promise to attack climate change is likely to light a fire under federal agencies slow to comply with a mandate to cut energy use – which could be very good news for companies that specialize in systems that save power. Major efficiency companies have been working to develop project proposals.

Economist: More Efficient Tyres

Economist: More Efficient Tyres

TYRES are remarkable pieces of engineering. They contain rubber-like polymers, layers of steel braiding and textile reinforcements, all of which improve performance and cut fuel consumption. Now Pirelli is manufacturing fuel-saving tyres that are greener still by extracting one of their ingredients from rice husks.

Economist: Europe and Coal

Economist: Europe and Coal

If EU policies work as intended, electricity from renewables will gradually take a larger share of overall generation. But at the moment, EU energy policy is boosting usage of the most polluting fuel, increasing carbon emissions, damaging the creditworthiness of utilities and diverting investment into energy projects elsewhere.

Economist: Cost of Air Conditioning

Economist: Cost of Air Conditioning

Critics counts air conditioning as more a curse than a miracle. Cooling buildings and vehicles pumps out almost half a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. Between 1995 and 2004 the proportion of homes in Chinese cities with air conditioning rose from 8% to 70%.

Economist: Higher Education

Economist: Higher Education

There is growing anxiety in America about higher education. A degree has always been considered the key to a good job. But rising fees and increasing student debt, combined with shrinking financial and educational returns, are undermining at least the perception that university is a good investment.

Economist: The Great Mismatch

Economist: The Great Mismatch

Better vocational education is hardly a cure-all for the global jobs crisis: millions of young people will be condemned to unemployment so long as demand remains slack and growth sluggish. But it can at least help to deal with an absurd mismatch that has saddled the world not just with a shortage of jobs but a shortage of skills as well.

Economist: Chicago Energy Industry

Economist: Chicago Energy Industry

Chicago claims to have the densest network of charging stations for electric vehicles, and to be home to more wind-farm companies than any city in America. The state is spending up to $3.2 billion on modernising the electrical grid in Illinois. It has also put aside $72.5m to invest in new smart-grid technology.

Economist: Cyber-Warfare Hype and Fear

Economist: Cyber-Warfare Hype and Fear

The Obama administration’s attempt to develop a more coherent doctrine of cyber-warfare is sensible so long as it is not just an excuse for hyping something that has yet to kill anybody. The essence of cyber-warfare is ambiguity and uncertainty, that makes policy both hard to construct and harder still to explain.

Economist: Uses of Difficulty

Economist: Uses of Difficulty

Compared with a hundred years ago, our lives are less tightly bound by social mores and physical constraints. Obstacles are everywhere disappearing. Few of us wish to turn the clock back, but perhaps we need to remind ourselves how useful the right obstacles can be. Sometimes, the best route to fulfilment is the path of more resistance.

Foreign Affairs: Post-Democracy in China

Foreign Affairs: Post-Democracy in China

In November 2012, the Chinese Communist Party held its 18th National Congress. Some in China and the West have gone so far as to predict the demise of the one-party state, which they allege cannot survive if leading politicians stop delivering economic miracles. Such pessimism is misplaced; in the next decade, China will continue to rise, not fade.

Foreign Affairs: Can America Be Fixed?

Foreign Affairs: Can America Be Fixed?

Commentators are prone to seeing the challenges of the moment in unnecessarily apocalyptic terms, yet American democracy is more dysfunctional and commands less authority than ever — and it has fewer levers to pull in a globalized economy. This time, the pessimists might be right.

Wired: Megacompanies Roping Us In

Wired: Megacompanies Roping Us In

For all the focus on outsourcing, economic forces are actually pushing corporate giants to grow larger. We’ve been told that our unbounded connectivity will favor the rise of small, nimble organizations. But the rise of technology has conferred immense advantages on the Goliaths of American industry.

Wired: The Patent Problem

Wired: The Patent Problem

The consequences of our current patent crisis reverberate far beyond Silicon Valley. What can’t be measured are the products that are never built—taking on even bogus patents is too much of a hurdle for some innovators. Patents were meant to encourage innovation, but lately they are being used as a weapon to stop it.

Wired: Passwords Don’t Protect US

Wired: Passwords Don’t Protect US

Since the dawn of the information age, we’ve bought into the idea that a password, so long as it’s elaborate enough, is an adequate means of protecting all this precious data. But in 2012 that’s a fallacy, a fantasy, an outdated sales pitch. No matter how complex, no matter how unique, your passwords can no longer protect you.

Foreign Affairs: Putin and Petroleum

Foreign Affairs: Putin and Petroleum

Russia has coasted on an oil legacy inherited from Soviet days. Much of the oil still in the ground will be more difficult and costly to find and produce. As expenses go up, profit margins will decline. At the same time, the oil industry will have to spend more of its remaining profits on its own renewal.

Foreign Affairs: It’s Hard in America

Foreign Affairs: It’s Hard in America

One of the United States’ major successes in the last half century has been its progress toward ensuring that its citizens get roughly the same basic chances in life, regardless of gender or race. Yet this achievement has been double edged. Today, people who were born worse off tend to have fewer opportunities in life.

NatGeo: Rain Forest for Sale

NatGeo: Rain Forest for Sale

Far beneath the ground, Yasuní, Ecuador, harbors a treasure that poses an urgent challenge to the precious web of life on the surface: hundreds of millions of barrels of untapped Amazon crude. President Rafael Correa has offered to leave indefinitely untouched an estimated 850 million barrels of oil, but the international response to the initiative has been tepid.

NatGeo: Crazy Far Exploration

NatGeo: Crazy Far Exploration

To get to the stars, we’ll need many new materials and engines but also a few of the old intangibles. In the conversation of certain dreamer-nerds, especially outside NASA, you can now hear echoes of the old aspiration and adventurousness—of the old craziness for space.

NatGeo: Exploration

NatGeo: Exploration

We have remained obsessed with filling in the Earth’s maps; reaching its farthest poles, highest peaks, and deepest trenches; sailing to its every corner and then flying off the planet entirely. The United States, along with other countries and several private companies, is preparing to send humans to the red planet as well.

National Geographic: Methane

National Geographic: Methane

By venting methane into the atmosphere, the lakes are amplifying the global warming that created them: Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Carbon dioxide is the main one, because the atmosphere holds 200 times as much of it. But a given amount of methane traps at least 25 times as much heat…

Climate Proofing Cities

Climate Proofing Cities

Governments around the world have been investing in plans to “climate-proof” their cities against weather-related calamities. Even if we managed to stop increasing global carbon emissions tomorrow, we would probably experience several centuries of additional warming, rising sea levels, and more frequent dangerous weather events.

Recall of the Wild

Recall of the Wild

For most of the past several millennia, Flevoland, a province which sits more or less at the center of the Netherlands, lay at the bottom of an inlet of the North Sea. Now, Flevoland is home to the Oostvaardersplassen, a wilderness that was also constructed, Genesis-like, from the mud.

The Obama Synthesis

The Obama Synthesis

The Brennan nomination crystallizes the ways in which Obama has also cemented and expanded the Bush approach to counterterrorism. We have a far-flung drone campaign that deals death, even to American citizens, on the say-so of the president and a secret administration “nominations” process.

NYT: The Market and Mother Nature

NYT: The Market and Mother Nature

What would help solve our fiscal problem: Give up your home mortgage deduction and wait two more years for Social Security and Medicare, or pay a little extra for gasoline and electricity? These will be our choices. The carbon tax would clean up the air for our kids, drive innovation and make us less dependent on the most unstable region in the world: the Middle East.

NYT: 2012 Hottest Year Ever in US

NYT: 2012 Hottest Year Ever in US

2012 was the hottest year ever recorded in the contiguous United States. 34,008 daily high records were set at weather stations across the country. 10 warmest years on record all fell within the past 15 years. 11 disasters in 2012 have exceeded $1 billion in damages, with Hurricane Sandy likely to exceed $60bn.

Incarceration Nation

Incarceration Nation

The war on drugs has succeeded only in putting millions of Americans in jail. The U.S. has 760 prisoners per 100,000 citizens. That’s not just many more than in most other developed countries but seven to 10 times as many. In 1980 the U.S.’s prison population was about 150 per 100,000 adults. It has more than quadrupled since then.

Industrial Ecology

Industrial Ecology

Industrial ecology (IE) is the study of material and energy flows through industrial systems. It is concerned with the shifting of industrial process from linear (open loop) systems, in which resource and capital investments move through the system to become waste, to a closed loop system where wastes can become inputs for new processes.

NYT: Courts Divided Over Searches of Cellphones

NYT: Courts Divided Over Searches of Cellphones

Judges and lawmakers across the country are wrangling over whether and when law enforcement authorities can peer into suspects’ cellphones, and the cornucopia of evidence they provide. As technology races ahead of the law, courts and lawmakers are still trying to figure out how to think about the often intimate data that cellphones contain.

NYT: When ‘Super PACs’ Become Lobbyists

NYT: When ‘Super PACs’ Become Lobbyists

The “super PACs” and secret-money groups that polluted this year’s election with hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of largely ineffective attack ads are not slinking away in shame. Many are regrouping and raising more money to lobby Congress and the White House on behalf of their special-interest donors.

CNN: Will 401(k) Plans Keep Getting Worse?

CNN: Will 401(k) Plans Keep Getting Worse?

In the Great Recession of 2008 to 2009, more than 11% of companies stopped their 401(k) match. Because they are voluntary, most workers do not even have a retirement account plan, which means many middle-class and upper-middle-class workers will only have Social Security to rely on for retirement.

The Economist: For Richer, For Poorer

The Economist: For Richer, For Poorer

The democratisation of living standards has masked a dramatic concentration of incomes over the past 30 years, on a scale that matches, or even exceeds, the first Gilded Age. Including capital gains, the share of national income going to the richest 1% of Americans has doubled since 1980, from 10% to 20%, roughly where it was a century ago.

The Economist: True Progressivism

The Economist: True Progressivism

BY THE end of the 19th century, the first age of globalisation and a spate of new inventions had transformed the world economy. But the “Gilded Age” was also a famously unequal one, with America’s robber barons and Europe’s “Downton Abbey” classes amassing huge wealth: the concept of “conspicuous consumption” dates back to 1899…

Wired: Obama’s War on Terror

Wired: Obama’s War on Terror

President Barack Obama has closely followed the policy of his predecessor, President George W. Bush, when it comes to tactics used in the “war on terror” — from rendition, targeted killings, state secrets, Guantanamo Bay to domestic spying, according to Michael Hayden, Bush’s former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency.

CNN: We’re No.1!…We’re…uh…not?

CNN: We’re No.1!…We’re…uh…not?

The United States is not No. 1 in several measures; Businesses admit shortcomings, why is it hard for government to do so? Other countries offer lessons in health care, education, even business. Current political polarization doesn’t help; we need some pragmatism.

NYT: For Two Economists…

NYT: For Two Economists…

Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty have tracked the incomes of the poor, the middle class and the rich in countries across the world. Their work shows that the top earners in the United States have taken a bigger and bigger share of overall income over the last three decades, with inequality nearly as acute as it was before the Great Depression.

The Culture of Surveillance

The Culture of Surveillance

In the late 20th century the language of “surveillance society” was popularized but now the outlines of “surveillance cultures” are emerging.

Wired: NSA Spy Center

Wired: NSA Spy Center

Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. The heavily fortified $2 billion center will store all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.

CNN – Will Michelle Obama’s Speech Change History?

CNN – Will Michelle Obama’s Speech Change History?

If Barack Obama is re-elected on November 6, he will owe more to his first lady than any president ever to win a second term. Michelle Obama gave one of the finest speeches ever delivered at a national political convention. More important, it could have more impact on the immediate future of the country than her husband’s celebrated 2004 keynote address to the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Higher Education in the US

Higher Education in the US

“The [University of Virginia] Board of Visitors is an archaic body, a vestige of [US President Thomas] Jefferson’s original conception of his university as an “academical village,” governing itself without executive authority. It was not until the early 20th century that the university bowed to practicality and hired a president. Though the board’s influence over the school has waned since then, a seat on it remains one of the most prestigious gifts a governor can bestow on a Virginian. Democrats and Republicans alike tend to allot the seats to major campaign contributors. The board that was judging [University President Teresa] Sullivan’s performance included lawyers, developers, a coal-mining executive and a beer distributor, but no voting member had an education background.”

NYT: Money and Morals

NYT: Money and Morals

The myth of a classless society has been exposed: Among rich countries, America stands out as the place where economic and social status is most likely to be inherited. The social changes taking place in America’s working class result from sharply rising inequality, and are not its cause.

NYT: Johnson discusses Kaufman

NYT: Johnson discusses Kaufman

To break the grip Wall Street has over political power would take a broad citizens’ movement, a groundswell of educated opinion focused on breaking that power, but the biggest Wall Street firms are larger and probably now more powerful than they were in the run-up to 2008.

What You (Really) Need to Know

What You (Really) Need to Know

The world is changing very rapidly, but it may be that inertia in the education system is appropriate. Suppose the educational system is drastically altered to reflect the structure of society and what we now understand about how people learn. How will what universities teach be different?

Why Politicians Get Away With Lying

Why Politicians Get Away With Lying

Maybe it’s a sign that the public has given up on honesty from presidential candidates. The assumption seems to be that politicians will always lie and that voters’ defense against that is fact checking by journalists. But … why do voters let politicians lie to them?

The Rising Cost of Catastrophes

The Rising Cost of Catastrophes

The world has been so preoccupied with the man-made catastrophes of subprime mortgages and sovereign debt that it may not have noticed how much economic mayhem nature has wreaked. With earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, floods in Thailand and Australia and tornadoes in America, last year was the costliest on record for natural disasters.

Brian Collins: The Great Shock

Brian Collins: The Great Shock

The global financial system still teeters on the brink of collapse, and virtually nothing has been done to avert another disaster. With the spectacle of “extend and pretend” unfolding, what needs explaining is why even the well-informed and high-minded remain committed to so unpromising a status quo.

NYT: A Facial Theory of Politics

NYT: A Facial Theory of Politics

On April 21, 2012, Leonard Mlodinow published an Op-Ed in the New York Times Sunday Review titled, A Facial Theory of Politics. The article describes studies made into the effect of visual cues on electoral results. “How important is a political candidate’s appearance? We’re all worldly enough to understand that looks matter. You probably know about the famous 1960 presidential debate between an unshaven and tired Richard Nixon and a tanned and rested John F. Kennedy: those who watched on television generally thought Kennedy won the debate, while those who listened over the radio overwhelmingly favored Nixon. Still, even the most jaded politico assumes that appearance is a relatively small factor — and one that we are basically aware of. Everyone knew that part of Kennedy’s appeal was how he looked…”

INET: The Coase Theorem as Fiction

INET: The Coase Theorem as Fiction

When externalities are present and transaction costs are absent, private parties will strike welfare-enhancing deals regardless of who owns what. In a frictionless world, bargaining leads to efficiency. That is the essence of the Coase Theorem, and it is fiction, according to Steven Medema.

INET: Measuring Systemic Risk

INET: Measuring Systemic Risk

Banks take on excessive risk since they know, in case of failure, the taxpayer will step in to rescue them. That is a form of free insurance, and Ed Kane wants to end it. To do so, he says, we need to put a number on systemic risk, the amount for which the taxpayer is on the hook.

CBO: Increasing Employment

CBO: Increasing Employment

The Congressional Budget Office expects economic growth to be slow for several years. The bulk of economic and human costs remain ahead and will fall disproportionately on people who lose their jobs, who are displaced from their homes, or who own businesses that fail.

CBO: Troubled Asset Relief Program

CBO: Troubled Asset Relief Program

CBO’s assessment of the cost of the TARP’s transactions is $2 billion lower than its previous estimate. The decrease stems from an increase in the market value of the government’s investments in AIG and General Motors, partially offset by added costs resulting from mortgage programs.

CBO: Long-Term Budget Imbalance

CBO: Long-Term Budget Imbalance

The aging of the US population and increases in health care costs will push up federal spending significantly in coming decades relative to the size of the economy. If revenues remain at their past levels, the rise in spending will lead to rapidly growing budget deficits and mounting federal debt.

CBO: Reducing the Deficit

CBO: Reducing the Deficit

If federal debt continues to expand faster than the economy—as it has since 2007— the growth of people’s income will slow, the share of federal spending devoted to paying interest on the debt will rise more quickly, and the risk of a fiscal crisis will increase.

CBO: Cost of Fannie-Mae/Freddie-Mac

CBO: Cost of Fannie-Mae/Freddie-Mac

Support for the mortgage market has been part of a broader federal policy aimed at encouraging home ownership and at making housing more affordable for families. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration have been an important aspect of that policy.

CBO: The US Federal Budget

CBO: The US Federal Budget

The budget deficit for 2011 was $1.3 trillion; at 8.7% of GDP, that deficit was the third-largest shortfall in the past 40 years. Federal spending exceeded 24% of GDP, the third-highest level in the past 40 years, while federal revenues were just over 15% of GDP, the third-lowest level during that period.

NAEP: The Nation’s Report Card 2011

NAEP: The Nation’s Report Card 2011

The National Assessment of Educational Progress is the largest representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas. Assessments are conducted in mathematics, reading, science, writing, the arts, civics, economics, geography, and US history.

Int’l Student Assessment – 2009

Int’l Student Assessment – 2009

PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) is an international study which began in the year 2000. It aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students in over 70 participating countries/economies.

PEPG: US Students Challenged

PEPG: US Students Challenged

Are US schools adequately preparing students for the 21st-century global economy? “Globally Challenged: Are US Students Ready to Compete?” is a study of student achievement in prepared under the auspices of Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance.

CBO: Labor Force Projections

CBO: Labor Force Projections

An expected development in the US economy is a slower rate of labor force growth relative to its average over the past few decades. That slowdown is anticipated because of the retirement of baby boomers and women’s participation in the labor force leveling off after rising for decades.

CBO: Federal Student Loan Programs

CBO: Federal Student Loan Programs

This Congressional Budget Office (CBO) study on Costs and Policy Options for Federal Student Loan Programs compares the budgetary and fair-value costs of the federal student loan programs. It also looks at several options for modifying those programs.

CBO: Social Security Projections

CBO: Social Security Projections

Social Security is the government’s largest single program and in 2011, about 56 million people will receive benefits, and outlays will total $733 billion, 1/5 of the federal budget. In 2035, outlays are projected to account for a much larger share of GDP than the share in 2010.

CBO: The Immigrant Population

CBO: The Immigrant Population

The latest report on the nation’s foreign-born population discusses changes in the numbers and countries of origin foreign-born people and their US status, and compares demographic and labor market characteristics of foreign-born and native-born people in the United States.

NYT: Let’s Be Less Productive

NYT: Let’s Be Less Productive

Professor Tim Jackson argues for slowing down. He describes how our relentless drive for economic growth undermines not only our economic system, through encouraging behavior that gives rise to financial crises, but also our quality of life and the environment we live in.

NYT: Obama’s Secret Kill List

NYT: Obama’s Secret Kill List

In their New York Times article, Secret Kill List Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will, Jo Becker and Scott Shane discuss the Obama Administration’s approach to the fight against terrorism. The article is the third in a series of articles, called A Measure of Change, that assess President Obama’s record.