Archive for the ‘Opinion Editorials’ Category

How Peyton Manning could increase your income

Posted on: March 24th, 2012 by Brian T. Schwartz No Comments

This article originally appeared in the print edition of the The Boulder Daily Camera on Saturday, March 24, 2012.

The Broncos’ quest for world championships now “starts with Peyton,” says executive VP John Elway.  If you don’t follow the Broncos, should you care?

Yes, say economist Michael C. Davis and psychologist Christian M. End, co-authors of the journal article “A Winning Proposition: The Economic Impact of Successful NFL Franchises.” They find a positive correlation between an NFL team’s winning percentage and local per-capita income.

Last season the Broncos won eight games, four more than the previous season. Professors Davis and End conclude that such an increase correlates a $120 local per-capita income gain, adjusting for inflation.  How do the authors explain this?

They examine the possibility that higher local incomes contribute to a team’s winning, or that team salaries push up the per-capita income, and conclude that neither is significant. Instead, they suggest that winning teams increase local workplace productivity. The authors then present psychology research supporting this effect.

One study found that a team’s victory or defeat affected how ardent fans perceived their “personal competencies on mental, social, and motor skill tasks.” The positive response to a team’s victory is what psychologists call “BIRGing”: basking in reflected glory. The authors note research showing that positive self-regard and mood contributes to job satisfaction and performance. Meanwhile, ardent fans also report lower self-esteem after their team lost.

Janet Lever’s 1969 study in São Paulo, Brazil illustrates the phenomenon: After a popular local soccer team lost, productivity decreased and workplace accidents increased.

Apathetic about the Broncos? Maybe you shouldn’t be.

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Thanks to Michael C. Davis for his assistance with this article.
Photo courtesy of

Concealed carry allowed at Colorado’s public universities

Posted on: March 15th, 2012 by Brian T. Schwartz No Comments

A version of this article was printed in the Boulder Daily Camera on Saturday, March 10, 2012. It’s in response to the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision that CU regents cannot prevent conceal-carry permit holders from being armed on campus.

The “make my day” moniker for House Bill 12-1088 trivializes the traumatic stress of defending one’s life. It also reflects baseless prejudice against gun owners.  Like the fictional Dirty Harry who popularized “make my day,” arguments against self-defense rights fit in Hollywood scripts, but not in reality. (Continues below video.)
Jim Manley of the Mountain States Legal Foundation was the lead attorney in the case to overthrow the concealed-carry ban at the U. of Colorado. He explains the basic facts & rationale regarding the decision.

CSU has allowed concealed-carry since 2003, while Colorado community colleges have since 2010. Writing in the Camera that year, Jimmy Calano of the Camera’s editorial advisory board opposed campus concealed-carry by describing horrors that could occur — but never have.  In its amicus brief for the case, County Sheriffs of Colorado say they “are not aware of any incident since 2003 involving firearms misuse on a Colorado state campus by a person with a licensed carry permit.” Or in Utah, which also allows campus conceal-carry. Nor has opposition to campus conceal-carry cited an incident.

Also in 2010, board member Dave Ensign says he “cannot understand the obsession with carrying at all times a weapon that’s sole purpose is to kill people.” But killing is not the purpose. Like police officers, civilians carry guns for self-defense against violent criminals, as documented in the Cato Institute’s “Tough Targets” study and books by Robert A. Waters.

These civilians include heroic life-savers Joel Myrick and Tracey Bridges, who thwarted school shootings after retrieving guns from their vehicles, notes scholar Dave Kopel in “Pretend ‘Gun-free’ School Zones: A Deadly Legal Fiction.”
Self-defense is a basic human right. Abridging this right is morally equivalent to disabling seat-belts in someone’s car.

Here’s an excerpt from my longer article on this topic, published in the Denver Post:

Here’s a challenge for the CU Regents and Boulder Faculty Assembly. They’re OK with armed campus police, but not armed citizens with the training and qualifications to have earned a concealed-carry permit. Then why not issue special campus gun permits to those who, at their own expense, undergo the same firearms training as the CU Police?

If this is not acceptable, how about more rigorous training, or limiting permits to faculty and staff? If a regent or CU faculty member opposes this, you should wonder about his actual motives for opposing concealed carry on campus.

See also: Students for Concealed Carry.

Is a Balanced Budget Amendment “Delusional?”

Posted on: March 15th, 2012 by admin No Comments

By Barry Poulson, PhD, Representative Spencer Swalm and Representative Ed Casso

During the past year both the House and Senate failed to pass a resolution calling for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. Resolutions proposing a Balanced Budget Amendment have failed numerous times in Congress over the past half century; in 1995 the Amendment passed the House and came within one vote of passage in the Senate.

Critics argue that this approach to fiscal discipline is ‘delusional’ because even if a Balanced Budget Amendment were incorporated in the Constitution politicians would find ways to evade these fiscal rules. But, these critics ignore the fact that 49 states have incorporated balanced budget provisions in their constitutions, and that with few exceptions these fiscal rules have effectively constrained the growth in state spending, enabling state governments to pursue a sustainable fiscal policy.

Congress, the President, and the American people understand that in the long run we must constrain the growth in federal spending in order to achieve a sustainable fiscal policy, and that this is a necessary condition to restore economic growth and prosperity.

It is because politicians have an incentive to increase spending at an unsustainable rate that balanced budget rules should be incorporated in the U.S. Constitution as well as state Constitutions.

This is a classic case of Arrow’s impossibility theorem. Assume that outcome A is current fiscal policies with unconstrained growth in deficits and debt; outcome B is a Democrat proposal to balance the budget by cutting defense spending; and outcome C is a Republican proposal to balance the budget by cutting non-defense spending. Democrats prefer outcome B to A, but prefer A to C. Republicans prefer outcome C to A, but A to B. Majority voting rules will result in voting cycles with no stable outcome, so the government is likely to muddle along increasing deficits and debt until the country experiences a fiscal crisis, such as that currently experienced in Europe.

The Founding Fathers may not have understood Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem, but they certainly understood the potential for unconstrained growth in federal spending to bankrupt the country. Thomas Jefferson stated that if there is one thing that he would have incorporated in the Constitution it is a Balanced Budget Amendment. “It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one half of the wars of the world.” Jefferson also anticipated how this flaw in the Constitution could lead to the current fiscal crises. “Unless the mass retains sufficient control over those entrusted with the powers of their government, those will be perverted to their own oppression, and to the wealth and power in the individuals and their families selected for their trust”.

The Founding Fathers provided a solution to this fiscal crisis by incorporating Article V in the Constitutions, giving the states as well as Congress the power to propose amendments to the Constitution. As James Madison states in Federalist #43, The Constitution “equally enables the general and the state governments to originate the amendment of errors, as they may be pointed out by the experience on one side, or on the other”.

It is clear that unconstrained growth in federal spending is precisely the failure in the federal government for which Article V was designed. Submitting budget decisions to the constraints imposed by a Balanced Budget Amendment would require that politicians forego their power of the purse. But the ability to slice and dice the federal budget, spending money to the benefit of special interests who can get them elected and keep them in office is the life blood of politics. In the absence of an effective balanced budget constraint this rent seeking game is biased toward continual deficit spending and accumulation of debt.

It is time to fulfill the Founding Fathers vision of a prudent federal government pursuing sustainable fiscal policies that will ensure our economic growth and prosperity. We can no longer wait for Congress to enact a Balanced Budget Amendment. The states can enact a Balanced Budget Amendment through an amendment convention under Article V of the Constitution. Federal fiscal policies could be constrained by the same fiscal rules that have proven effective in our state governments. To argue that this is ‘delusional’ is to ignore our constitutional history and more than two centuries of experience with balanced budget rules incorporated in state Constitutions.

Originally published in the Denver Business Journal, March 9-15, 2012

Economic indicators that best correlate with presidential election results

Posted on: February 28th, 2012 by Brian T. Schwartz No Comments

This was printed in the Boulder Daily Camera on February 25, 2012.

Which economic indicators best correlate with presidential election results?  Last year New York Times statistician Nate Silver presented an elegant answer to this question.  For the sixteen presidential elections since World War II, he computed the correlation between the incumbent party’s margin of victory and the value of 43 indicators in the first nine months of the election year. The results? Change in employment rates matter. Market indexes and oil prices don’t.

The Institute of Supply Management’s manufacturing index best correlates with incumbent party victories, with a 46 percent correlation. Close behind are changes in non-farm payrolls and changes in the unemployment rate – both above 40 percent correlation.  Since World War II, incumbent presidents ran for reelection seven times. Only Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush lost – both when the unemployment rate increased.

Note that the change in unemployment rates matter, not the rate itself, which had zero correlation.  Meanwhile, gain of the Dow Jones index had only a six percent correlation. Silver also found a 15 percent correlation between lower gas prices and an incumbent victory.

While the unemployment rate has been decreasing for about a year, it’s not necessarily a good sign for Obama.  The rate has decreased partly because many have stopped looking for work. Classifying these people as unemployed would increase the unemployment rate by 1.25 percentage points, reports the Congressional Budget Office.  Worse for Obama, economist James Sherk shows that despite job growth, this is the “weakest recovery in more than half a century.”

Bill Would Compromise Patients’ Medical Privacy

Posted on: February 23rd, 2012 by admin No Comments

by Linda Gorman and Amy Oliver

Colorado officials have no business forcing people to choose between medical care and exposing their personal lives to hackers, busybody bureaucrats, and commercial interests. Nor do they have any business increasing the cost of health care by requiring those who pay for their own health care to participate in the latest database boondoggle.

State officials like to preach about controlling health care costs and how forced “transparency” will help people shop for health care. Their actions show that the real goal is to collect and store information about your behavior. When government can track your behavior, it gains a great deal of power to monitor and control your actions.

In 2010, the General Assembly passed HB 1330. It established Colorado’s All-Payer Health Claims Database (APDB). The law says an administrator can collect whatever medical data it wishes from every health care “payer” in the state. If you pay cash, you are a “payer.” Fines may be levied on the noncompliant

Supporters said the APDB would not need public money. They had private grant funding in place, some of it from groups bankrolling ObamaCare. Shortly after the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing appointed the Center for Improving Value in Health Care (CIVHC) as the APDB administrator, CIVHC removed itself from the Department and set up shop as a private 501(c)(3).

CIVHC’s plans to entering into “contractual agreements” with the state to provide Colorado Medicaid data, a back-door way of getting its hands on the taxpayer dollars that weren’t supposed to support it. It also plans to sell your health data to commercial interests at $50,000 a pop, and to charge providers for providing required data.

Medical privacy? They’re pretending about that, too.

CIVHC CEO Phil Kalin recently wrote, “No identified data will be available in the datasets or reports we provide. Social Security numbers and personal health information will be stripped, a unique identified assigned.” But he also wrote that “public health agencies want to understand patterns of disease diagnosis and treatment, and whether public education campaigns are followed by increased preventive services provided to patients.”

As University of Colorado law professor Paul Ohm, points out “data can be either useful or perfectly anonymous but never both.” In short, a database used to evaluate treatment efficacy and value must include all the data of a clinical trial. That means all of the information available to your physician, pharmacist, and hospital, and information about your personal habits, income, education, and family life.

With all this data it won’t be hard to figure out, or steal, the identity of the unidentified married white female teacher who is 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighs 160 pounds, was born on Jan. 2, 1985, is married, has two children aged 5 and 7, had appendicitis treated at Poudre Valley Hospital 6 years ago, had her second child at Memorial Hospital North in Colorado Springs, had an abortion three years ago, is in therapy, contracted giardia on a trip to New Zealand, is on the pill, and lives in zip code 80908.

Data kept in paper files in separate offices is hard to steal. It becomes insecure when it is uploaded to an electronic database.

And as if the APDB isn’t enough, Reps. Summers and Massey, along with Sen. Betty Boyd are sponsoring HB12-1242. Under that bill, you won’t be able to get prescription medications or controlled over-the-counter medications without providing a biometric identifier like a fingerprint or a retinal scan. Failure to comply would be a Class 1 misdemeanor, a crime as serious as the possession of child pornography or third degree assault.

If requiring voters to show ID is an unacceptable infringement of rights, so is requiring people to choose between health care and personal privacy. Officials who fail to repeal the APDB enable the ongoing assault on individual liberty.

This article originally appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette, February 22, 2012.

Let’s Pay Teachers To Be Effective, Too

Posted on: February 23rd, 2012 by admin No Comments

by Ben DeGrow

Colorado is one key step closer to distinguishing teachers who effectively help students learn from those who don’t. But we certainly haven’t overcome every obstacle to delivering top-notch instruction.

House Bill 1001’s “rule review evaluation of educator effectiveness” quickly sailed through the Colorado Legislature with only a single vote against, before Gov. John Hickenlooper signed it into law. The rules flesh out how Colorado schools will tie professional teacher and principal evaluations more closely to measures of student performance and hold them accountable for the results.

HB 1001’s smooth sailing contrasts with the groundbreaking legislation that launched the process. Two years ago the Colorado Education Association (CEA) threw up a heavy roadblock to Senate Bill 191, standing alone against a broad coalition of parents, teachers, business leaders and other reformers. Union teachers lobbied lawmakers on the public dime and some lawmakers shed tears, while hearings and debates dragged into the late hours.

The state’s largest teachers union could not stop SB 191 but did win key concessions, primarily slowing down the process to put the new educator evaluation system in place. Twenty-seven school districts have begun piloting implementation of the model system. Meanwhile, four other “partner” districts that already have developed high-quality evaluation systems will provide feedback for comparison purposes. The full system is not scheduled to launch until 2014-15.

While the process may be moving forward more slowly than many would like, positive steps have been taken. Teachers will have to earn and keep tenure protections by demonstrating effectiveness, and seniority no longer can trump performance as a factor in lay-offs. Principals as instructional leaders will share accountability with classroom teachers for promoting student growth, which must make up at least half of educator evaluations.

Research shows Colorado is on track using value-added measures as a major factor in judging instruction. A peer-reviewed 2010 study in American Economic Review found that a teacher’s effectiveness at improving measurable student learning could be predicted far better by previous value-added ratings than by experience or credentials.

In fact, no result is so unanimous in education research as Stanford University economist Eric Hanushek’s survey of 34 high-quality studies, all of which found that master’s degrees do not make teachers more effective. That the vast majority of educators do not earn these advanced degrees to enhance relevant content knowledge partly explains the result.

The progress in upgrading evaluations and tenure boosted Colorado’s grade on the nonpartisan National Council on Teacher Quality’s recent report card of state teacher policies. Only eight states earned better overall marks at helping to ensure students receive the highest-quality instruction.

However, NCTQ pointed out weaknesses in several areas. Colorado netted consistently poor ratings for teacher preparation standards, including for teachers in early grades to provide effective, research-based literacy and math instruction. The report also identified plenty of room for improvement in our state’s existing educator compensation systems.

The same effectiveness measures that will be used to evaluate and make tenure-related decisions ought to factor significantly into how principals and instructors are paid. This logical leap forward from rewarding educators based on years of service and academic credentials can be enhanced further by paying more for harder job and school assignments. After all, fewer people are qualified to teach higher-level math or special education, and fewer people want to work at challenging, high-poverty sites.

The new effectiveness-based evaluation system paves the way to pay many more Colorado teachers for effectiveness, too. Districts can model and adapt groundbreaking changes like Harrison’s Effectiveness and Results plan or strategic compensation in Eagle County. Harrison and Eagle County have changed the paradigm by abolishing the old salary schedule and linking educator pay to performance.

Adopting new educator evaluation rules has proven a harmonious task for legislators. But as the process rolls on, Colorado’s real work of changing policies and systems to promote the highest-quality teaching has only begun.

This article originally appeared in the Summit Daily News, February 23, 2012.

Colorado’s ban on text messaging while driving: ineffective, misguided

Posted on: February 14th, 2012 by Brian T. Schwartz No Comments

The originally appeared in the Boulder Daily Camera on Saturday, February 11, 2012.

The Boulder Daily Camera’s article on the Safe Streets Boulder report says “drivers who follow too close and rear-end other vehicles” cause the most accidents by far. No doubt texting while driving has contributed to some of these. But does this lend credibility to Colorado’s 2009 prohibition, sponsored by Rep. Claire Levy (D-Boulder), against texting behind the wheel? The evidence suggests not.

Like other driver distractions, texting increases accident risks. But it doesn’t follow that banning text-messaging helps. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety compared collision accidents rates in four states that had banned texting. “Crash rates rose in three of the states after bans were enacted,” reports the USA Today. Researchers suggest that “drivers try to evade police by lowering their phones when texting, increasing the risk by taking their eyes even further from the road and for a longer time.”

Enforcement is also problematic. When drivers poke at phones, police “can’t tell … whether they’re dialing a phone number” or texting, said Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle, who called the prohibition a “feel good law.” To promote safety, Pelle says that police should “focus on pulling people over and writing tickets for bad driving.”

The Sheriff is right. As journalist Radley Balko argues, to promote safe streets, “we should be punishing reckless driving. It shouldn’t matter if it’s caused by alcohol, sleep deprivation, prescription medication, text messaging, or road rage. … The punishable act should be violating road rules or causing an accident, not the factors that led to those offenses.”

(Image via

A Bill of Good Things to Have

Posted on: February 10th, 2012 by admin No Comments

by Barry Fagin

Mr. President:

What a pleasure to see your byline on The Gazette’s opinion pages. Of course, you must have had your people write that column on your “Housing Bill of Rights.” But you’re a busy man; that’s completely excusable.

What is less excusable is the idea that what a dozen previous administrations of both parties have screwed up, your administration can somehow fix.

Were I less cynical, I might think you’re just throwing homeowners a bag of goodies, in hopes that they’ll vote for you. True, I’m a homeowner, and proposing legislation that benefits me is at least superficially appealing. But my vote is not bought so cheaply. I know there’s always a catch.

The housing bubble didn’t simply happen. It was the direct and predictable result of the expansion of the money supply and artificially low interest rates a few years before, based on the same “stimulus” ideas your party continues to embrace.

Making things worse were the legions of rules, regulations, subsidies and distortions of lending and housing markets promulgated through HUD, Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae. Why did you not mention them?

Have you forgotten your efforts and those of your party to subsidize mortgages to buyers who otherwise could not qualify for them? Have you forgotten the rules, regulations and mandates you and your party imposed on banks? Have you forgotten that the reason banks foreclose is to get liquidity, an area of vital importance to any bank’s regulatory compliance officer?

You say that “others” played by different rules.

You mean the rules written by members of both parties in Congress over the past three decades?

Why exactly would lenders “sell mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them”, unless they knew they would be bailed out? Why exactly would buyers “buy homes they knew they couldn’t afford” unless they were responding to incentives from Washington?

When people play by the rules and things go bad, is it the players’ fault? Or those who made the rules in the first place?

And yet, you are asking us to believe that this time you’ve got it right. All the hundreds of national regulations designed to “fix” problems of home ownership, from the creation of HUD in 1965 to the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, those don’t really matter. You’ve got a Homeowners’ Bill of Rights that will finally fix things. Forgive me, Mr. President, but I doubt it.

What you are proposing is not a bill of rights. Rights are things that human beings have simply because they’re human.

Governments don’t grant them, they are instituted to secure them. What you are proposing is a bill of entitlements, a Bill of Good Things To Have.

Mr. President, America is in crisis. We are trillions of dollars in debt, we have made financial promises we cannot keep, and we are at risk of producing the first generation that may not live as well as its parents. To fix this, we do not need more tweaks to failed programs and attempts to buy off interest groups. Including homeowners like me.

We need rules all right, but only the basic ones that all civilized societies have to permit their economies to flourish. We need sound, stable money. We need a government that lives within its means. We need fraud to be punished. We need more freedom to contract.

Canada, according to one prominent think tank, now has more economic freedom than we do. That is unacceptable.

We need the freedom to earn more of our keep, and to keep more of what we earn. And no bailouts for anyone, rich or poor. As you point out, everyone needs to be held responsible for their actions.

In other words, Mr. President, we don’t need yet another Bill of Rights. The first ten amendments of the Constitution do just fine.

What we need, Mr. President, is liberty.

This article originally appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Point/Counterpoint series February 8, 2012.

Obama’s State of the Union: You’re just part of his “blueprint”

Posted on: February 1st, 2012 by Brian T. Schwartz No Comments

This originally was published in the Boulder Daily Camera on Saturday, January 28, 2012.

For refutations of the President’s flawed claims and statist economic plans, see the Cato Institute’s website, blog, and YouTube channel. Regarding Obama’s “Buffett tax” on millionaires, the Associated Press explains that the wealthiest Americans already “pay a lot more taxes than the middle class,” including secretaries

To understand Obama’s statist fervor, ask yourself: Are you a machine cog? Surely not. But like many politicians, Obama disagrees, at least tacitly. How? Linguist George Lakoff explains how metaphors are key to understanding political discourse. In his speech, the President expressed his desire to “lay out a blueprint for an economy.” At least twice he’s mentioned starting a health care “system” from “scratch.” This speaks volumes.

“The economy” refers to people producing and exchanging goods and services. In a freed economy, government respects people’s right to trade voluntarily. But Obama sees the economy as a machine to be manufactured, or a cake to be baked.

Obama has the same conceit that better economists have warned about for centuries. Describing the “man of system,” Adam Smith wrote: “He seems to imagine that he can arrange … members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges … pieces upon a chess-board.” “Socialists look upon people as raw material to be formed into social combinations,” wrote French economist Frederic Bastiat in 1853. Or, as 1974 Nobel laureate F.A. Hayek wrote, “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”

Boulder’s “Climate Action Plan”: inefficient, ineffective

Posted on: January 19th, 2012 by Brian T. Schwartz No Comments

This was printed in the Boulder Daily Camera on Saturday, January 14, 2012.

The Boulder City Council’s website touts a “Climate Action Plan” as one of its primary goals. “The current goal is equivalent to the Kyoto Protocol target – to reduce emissions to a level seven percent below 1990 levels by 2012,” it says. With the city’s carbon tax set to end early next year, it’s worth asking: Is reducing carbon dioxide emissions the best way to respond to global warming?

Reviewing analysis by retired NCAR Senior Scientist Tom Wigley, Boulder’s University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) states that even if the “industrialized and nearly industrialized countries called upon to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the protocol … continued to abide by Kyoto’s limits” through 2100, global average temperatures would be at most 0.38 degrees Fahrenheit less than midpoint warming projections. Put in perspective, global temperatures decreased by this amount between 1900 and 1910, according to NASA.

Given this tiny effect, I’m not surprised that expert climate economists commissioned by the Copenhagen Consensus Center ranked emission reductions last among cost-effective responses to climate change. More efficient methods, listed at, include adaptation, climate engineering, and carbon storage technologies.

With or without global warming, people — especially those in developing nations –face threats from extreme temperature, coastal flooding, hurricanes, malaria, poverty, starvation, and water stress. While global warming may increase these risks, scholars including Indur Goklany and Bjorn Lomborg convincingly argue that directly reducing these threats and promoting prosperity save more lives at lower cost than attempts involving emissions reductions.