Tag Archives: new york times

Did Spending Cuts Cause the UK Riots?

Here’s a letter I recently sent to The New York Times:

TO THE EDITOR:

 Richard Sennett and Saskia Sassen worry in their August 11 op-ed that government spending cuts may be causing the UK riots. They also hint at what that could imply for the U.S.

A problem with their argument is that government spending in the UK has gone up sharply over the last decade. Government spending there is currently about 45 percent of GDP. In 2000, it was only 34 percent. There were no riots then.

A similar story has played out in America. When President Clinton left office, federal spending was 18 percent of GDP. Now it is 24 percent.

If spending cuts cause riots, then we should have nothing to worry about. The fact that we do means something else must be behind the looting.

RYAN YOUNG
Washington, D.C. Aug. 11, 2011
The writer is a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Advertisements

New York Times Profiles Ryan Braun

This week, the Brewers will play a series against the Yankees in New York for the first time since 1997. The New York Times used the occasion to profile Ryan Braun. It’s worth a read; very rarely does a player of his caliber stay with a small-market team for an entire career. Braun signed a contract extension earlier this season to stay in Milwaukee through 2020, when he’ll turn 36. This fan wishes there were more like him.

Useful Partisans

Partisans are strange creatures. They can support a policy for years when their guys are in charge, then oppose it in the blink of an eye when the other team takes power. Ross Douthat takes a thoughtful look inside the partisan mind in today’s New York Times:

[M]illions of liberals can live with indefinite detention for accused terrorists and intimate body scans for everyone else, so long as a Democrat is overseeing them. And millions of conservatives find wartime security measures vastly more frightening when they’re pushed by Janet “Big Sis” Napolitano (as the Drudge Report calls her) rather than a Republican like Tom Ridge.

He also identifies a bright side to partisanship that I hadn’t thought of:

But for the country as a whole, partisanship does have one modest virtue. It guarantees that even when there’s an elite consensus behind whatever the ruling party wants to do (whether it’s invading Iraq or passing Obamacare), there will always be a reasonably passionate opposition as well. Given how much authority is concentrated in Washington, especially in the executive branch, even a hypocritical and inconsistent opposition is better than no opposition at all.

Good point.

One Way to Create High-Tech Jobs

My colleague Ryan Radia and I recently sent this letter to The New York Times:

Editor, New York Times:

Catherine Rampell’s September 7 article, “Once a Dynamo, the Tech Sector Is Slow to Hire,” mourns the recent decline in U.S. data processing jobs. She blames much of the decline on the automation of previously tedious tasks.

May we suggest one way to get those jobs back: No more automation. Ban the use of computers for data processing. Imagine how much information flows through today’s global economy in an average day. Computers handle most of the load. That costs millions of jobs.

The effects would reverberate far beyond the tech sector. The paper, pen, and pencil industries would also boom.

Companies are dead-set on doing more with less. True, that creates more jobs in the long run by freeing up resources — and employees — for new ventures. But if only they would consider doing less with more, they could create more data processing jobs.

Ryan Young and Ryan Radia
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Washington, D.C.

Regulation of the Day 145: Unregistered Chariots

When King Tutankhamen’s tomb was discovered in 1922, six chariots were among the artifacts found inside. One of them even had some wear and tear; maybe Pharaoh had personally used it for hunting.

It is even possible that falling off that very chariot caused the broken leg that is believed to have ultimately killed him at the age of 18 or so. That chariot is now on display in New York as part of a traveling exhibition of Tutenkhamen’s artifacts.

Getting the chariot from Egypt to New York was quite an ordeal. At roughly 3,300 years of age, the wood is fragile. First it was carefully packed into a truck and driven to Cairo from the Luxor museum. Then it was loaded onto a New York-bound cargo jet. A curator was by its side at all times.

Once it arrived stateside, the New York Times tells of an unexpected regulatory hurdle through which the chariot had to pass before leaving JFK International Airport for its Times Square destination and painstaking reassembly:

When New York traffic officials reviewed the papers required for the oversize truck that would transport the chariot into Manhattan, they saw that the cargo inside was classified as a vehicle, and demanded its Vehicle Identification Number.

“I’m totally serious,” said Mr. Lach, the exhibition’s designer. “But we got it cleared up.”

Good for them. The exhibit is on until January 2 if you care to look for the chariot’s VIN yourself.

Unintended Consequences of Unemployment Benefits

This letter of mine ran in today’s New York Times in response to Paul Krugman’s July 4 column.

To the Editor:

Paul Krugman is at a loss to explain why some people oppose extending unemployment benefits. One reason people hold such an opinion is that when government subsidizes something, there tends to be more of it.

The more government subsidizes unemployment, the more people will indulge in it for longer periods of time.

Ryan Young
Washington, July 6, 2010

The writer is a journalism fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Get Spit On, Take Three Months Off

New Yorkers have a reputation for being rude. But they are also a sensitive lot. Especially bus drivers. Last year, angry customers literally spit on bus drivers 51 times. The experience was so harrowing for one unidentified driver that he or she needed 191 days of paid leave to recover. The average driver took 64 days of paid leave after being spat upon.

Seems a bit much. But union leaders think it’s justified.

“Being spat upon — having a passenger spit in your face, spit in your mouth, spit in your eye — is a physically and psychologically traumatic experience,” said John Samuelsen, the union’s president. “If transit workers are assaulted, they are going to take off whatever amount of time they are going to take off to recuperate.”

Getting spit on is not fun. And it can certainly ruin one’s day. But the recovery time for most people is measured in minutes, not months.

Raul Morales, 52, has been driving city buses for five years, but his first encounter with spit came early.

“A guy wanted to get on the bus; I told him the fare; he didn’t want to pay it,” Mr. Morales said. “So, he spat at me.”

The spittle landed on his shirt and glasses. He stopped at a nearby McDonald’s to clean himself off, then finished his shift. “I just kept on going.” (An ice slushie was once thrown at him for the same reason.)

Mr. Morales said it did not occur to him to take an extended absence to recover.

Good to see that common sense isn’t completely dead.

It is sad that so many transit employees have no problem taking months-long vacations at taxpayer expense, using the flimsiest of excuses. That kind of behavior wouldn’t fly in the productive sector.

New York City Transit is running a $400 million deficit this year. Saliva-induced vacations alone account for nearly a million dollars of that, based on average salaries. That money could have gone towards softening looming service cuts. It could have gone to repairing aging infrastructure. It could have gone to employees who actually work.

But when labor rules are as generous as they are for many public-sector union workers, it should come as no surprise that some people will game the system.