New international student test results called PISA have been released. See here and here. Once again, U.S. high-school kids did poorly. American kids ranked 36th in math, 24th in reading, and 28th in science among 65 countries and jurisdictions. The U.S. scores were below the average of other countries in all three subject areas.
To join their families for Thanksgiving this week, millions of Americans will face the drudgery of airline travel. Airports are crowded, flights are often delayed, and many travelers will get stuck in long security lines. It may get worse: a new study by the U.S. Travel Association (USTA) says that American aviation may be flying into a storm of “chronic congestion, delays, and frustration.”
A government study that finds a program doesn’t work and proposes to cut it is almost as rare as pigs that fly. But a new Government Accountability Office study on aviation does just that: it proposes chopping the Transportation Security Administration’s SPOT security program because it finds no evidence that it could stop airline terrorists.
My new study on the Transportation Security Administration mainly focuses on the agency’s poor management and performance. The TSA has a near monopoly on security screening at U.S. airports, and monopoly organizations usually end up being bloated, inefficient, and providing low-quality services.
The study proposes contracting out or “privatizing” airport screening, which is the structure of aviation security used successfully in Canada and many European countries.
A new GAO report recommends that Congress end the SPOT program, which attempts to catch terrorists by suspicious behaviors they may exhibit at airport checkpoints. The Transportation Security Administration currently spends more than $200 million a year on the Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques program, even though there has been criticism from the start that there is no solid science behind it.
One story after another emerges about dysfunctional federal programs plagued by waste, fraud, and abuse. The core problem is that the government has grown so large that trying to make it function with efficiency and soundness has become impossible.
House and Senate budget negotiators, led by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray, have been meeting to find ways to trim spending and solve the federal budget mess. Many pundits are giving them low odds at agreeing to major reforms.
If we did a poll of free market economists about federal programs that are the most wasteful and ridiculous, energy subsidies would be near the top of the list. It’s not just that energy subsidies make no sense in economic theory, but also that there are so many news stories highlighting the folly that it’s hard to see why policymakers persist in wasting our money.
One of the many problems with Big Government is that it abuses our privacy. The potential for abuse has been greatly heightened in the information age. The problem is not just that government officials themselves can abuse the vast troves of data that they collect, but that thieves, hackers, organized crime, and other private actors can gain access as well.
House and Senate negotiators are working out details of a big farm bill that may pass this year. No industry in America is as coddled as farming, and no industry is as centrally planned from Washington. The federal sugar program is perhaps the most Soviet of all. Here’s a sketch of the sugar program, which the supposedly conservative, tea party-dominated lower chamber may soon ratify: