Saturday, February 6, 2016

Tribe Chalks Up 17th Win in Williamsburg


Comfortable Margin

Powerful Three Point Duo

William and Mary continued its march to a third straight 20 win season today, handily defeating the University of Delaware 90-64 before 6,028 fans --- the most this year --- in Williamsburg.  The Tribe sank thirteen three point shots, including two each by Terry Tarpey (pictured above on the left) and Omar Prewitt (pictured above on the right).  Prewitt scored 21 points, leading a balanced scoring attack that left five Tribe players in double figures.  Tarpey also snagged 11 rebounds, and Sean Sheldon added 8.  (Go here for the game's box score.)

The Tribe now sits in sole possession of second place in the CAA, with a 17-6 record (9-3 in conference play), just one game behind the UNCW Seahawks.  Even before today's win, William and Mary stood 34th in the RPI power rankings, ahead of Arizona, Michigan and Indiana, for instance.   With six games left in the regular season, three potential games in the CAA tournament, and a possible bid to the NCAA tournament beyond that, the Tribe seems poised to match or exceed the 24 wins it earned in the 1948-49 season, when the team finished second in the Southern Conference, behind North Carolina State..  (That season's schedule included games against the Norfolk Naval Air Station, Quantico Marines, Langley Field, and the Little Creek Amphibious Base.)

The Tribe takes on Hofstra at William and Mary Hall this Thursday, February 11 at 7:00 PM.   Go Tribe!


Friday, February 5, 2016

William and Mary BOV Announces Charter Day Extension of President Reveley's Appointment

Reason to Celebrate!

Today William and Mary celebrates the 323rd anniversary of its Royal Charter, issued by King William and Queen Mary in 1693. The charter provides that the College shall consist of "one President, six Masters or Professors, and an hundred scholars [students] more or less."  The Charter named James Blair, selected by the General Assembly of Virginia, as the College's first President, "during his natural life." Bishop James Madison, for whom this blog is named, served as President of the College from 1776-1812.  

Blair and Madison are tough acts to follow, but W. Taylor Reveley III has proved himself a worthy successor to these leaders. Earlier today Todd Stottlemyer, '85 and Rector of the College and William and Mary, announced that the College's Board of Visitors has unanimously extended the appointment of Taylor Reveley as President of William and Mary until June, 2018.  Here is the complete announcement.

Rector Stottlemyer's announcement rightly notes that President Reveley's leadership "has been crucial to the University's sustained excellence."    He took the helm in early 2008 and has presided during a time of great financial challenge to higher education in general and William and Mary in particular. Along with Rector Stottlemeyer, former Rector Trammel, and others, President Reveley helped conceive, develop and execute a new financial model for the College, in the form of the William and Mary Promise.  Recently extended by the Board of Visitors, the Promise helped ensure that entering students would experience predictable tuition bills while simultaneously enhancing affordability for low and middle income families and generating stable revenue necessary for important investments in academic excellence.  As a result, the College continues to provide an excellent and accessible education.   At the same time, President Reveley and others conceived and launched the College's most ambitious fundraising campaign, For The Bold, with a goal of raising $1 billion, about a third of which will be devoted to scholarships.  He also established a strategic planning process, under the auspices of the University's Planning Steering Committee, to ensure a more transparent assessment of the College's objectives and a more rational allocation of resources between such objectives.  In short, the College is fortunate that he has agreed to extend his service as President.

This blogger would be remiss if he did not mention one more notable achievement, namely, the designation of the College's current mascot.  After a grueling process that produced five finalists, President Reveley chose the Griffin, as recounted in this video.  No wonder the mythical creature is clapping! 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Should Candidates (and Voters) Be More Optimistic?

Justified Optimism

Maybe Not

In a recent Washington Post opinion piece, Jonathan Capehart praises President Obama's optimism about America's future, optimism the President recently expressed in his final state of the union address. Capehart also analogizes President Obama's optimism to that expressed by President Ronald Reagan in the latter's 1989 farewell address.  In that address, President Reagan referred to America as a "shining city on a hill" that was, at the end of his administration, "more free, more prosperous, more secure and happier than it was eight years ago." Capehart also chastises the current field of Republican presidential candidates for rejecting such optimism. According to Capehart, these candidates repeatedly invoke Reagan, but "bombard us with gloom, doom and defeatism."

Capehart is certainly correct that both President Obama and President Reagan struck optimistic tones as their administrations came to a close.  He is also correct that many Republican candidates for President seem anything but optimistic about the nation's current trajectory.  At the same time, Capehart does not mention the fact that most Americas do not seem to share President Obama's optimism. For instance, two thirds of Americans believe the nation is "on the wrong track," compared to 55 percent early in President Obama's first term.  (Go here for these data.)  Only one third of Americans believe that today's children will be better off than their parents.  (See here.)  The rate of new business formation is near a 30 year low. Capehart does not consider the possibility that glum Republican presidential candidates are simply reflecting the mood of the people --- Republicans, Democrats and Independents --- they hope will elect them.

Of course it may be that the American people are simply unduly pessimistic about what the future holds for this country. However, a little reflection, informed by recent economic history, suggests that there is significantly less reason for optimism about the nation's economic future than there was when Reagan delivered his farewell address in 1989.  While President Reagan left his successor a booming economy resulting in robust job creation, President Obama's successor will inherit a tepid economic recovery which has left millions of Americans behind and with little or no prospect of improvement.

Like President Obama, President Reagan inherited a deteriorating economy.  When Reagan took office in January, 1981, the prime interest rate had just hit 21.5 percent, inflation was running over 13 percent, and unemployment was 7.5 percent, on its way to 10.8 percent in December, 1982.

Like President Obama, who proposed an economic stimulus package that Congress would later pass, President Reagan proposed a package of tax cuts also designed to stimulate the economy, and Congressman Jack Kemp led the Congressional efforts to enact Reagan's proposals.  (To his credit, President Obama would later award Kemp the Medal of Freedom.)   The plan, which cut tax rates for all Americans, was similar in design and rationale to that offered by President John F. Kennedy in 1962.  As previously explained on this blog, President Kennedy sold his plan as an effort to stimulate economic growth, reduce unemployment, and, ultimately, eliminate the short run budget deficit that such cuts would produce.   As President Kennedy explained in a December, 1982 speech to the Economic Club of New York:

"The purpose of cutting taxes is not to incur a budget deficit, but to achieve the more prosperous, expanding economy which can bring about a budget surplus."

Congress enacted President Reagan's proposed tax cuts in the summer of 1981.  While a portion of the cuts took effect immediately, most were phased in over the next three years.  His administration also accelerated the pace of deregulation. What followed was a veritable economic boom.  While the economy contracted in 1982, a recovery started in November of that year.  Over the six year period 1983 through 1988, the American economy grew at an annual rate of 4.6 percent on average.  (See here)  During the same period, total employment increased from 88,993,000 in January, 1983 to 103,664,000 on December 1, 1988, a 16.5 percent net increase. (See here).

The economy has not experienced a similar boom under President Obama, despite passage of his stimulus package.  The economy contracted during 2009 and began a recovery in the summer of 2009. Over the six year period of 2010 through 2014, GDP grew an average of 2.2 percent, less than half the rate during the Reagan boom, with annual growth never exceeding 2.4 percent.   During the same period, total employment grew from 129,717,000 in January, 2010 to 143,242,000 in December, 2014, a 10.3 percent net increase.  (See the sources cited in the prior paragraph for these data.)

In short, the rate of economic growth during the Reagan recovery was more than double the rate for Obama recovery.  Moreover, the rate of employment growth during the six years of the Reagan recovery was more than 60 percent higher than the rate during the first six years of the Obama recovery.  Nor is there any indication that the Obama recovery is picking up steam, with 2015 growth predicted to be a disappointing 2.5 percent.  (By contrast the economy grew 3.7 percent in 1989.)  It is little wonder that many Americans are pessimistic about the nation's economic future.  Even former President Bill Clinton recently expressed his view that, if elected, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would "do what needs to be done now to restore prosperity."  Like former President Clinton, many Americans are old enough to recognize robust economic growth when they see it, and they know this is not it.

Of course, GDP and employment growth are not the only indicators of national well-being.  A nation might choose policies that alleviate poverty or result in a more equitable distribution of income, even if such polices cause somewhat smaller economic growth.  However, there is no indication that slower growth has bought us greater equality or lower poverty.  Poverty rates are higher than when President Obama took office and lower than 1989, when President Reagan left office.  (See page 12 of this report.)  Income inequality is by many accounts on the rise.  The Reagan boom brought greater wealth and less poverty; the Obama recovery has been disappointing by comparison.

None of this is to condone the sort of pessimism that Capehart claims to see in today's crop of Republican candidates.  In 1980 then-citizen Reagan believed the country was moving in the wrong direction but was nonetheless optimistic about America's future.  In particular, he had faith in the power of free markets and individual initiative and a plan for unleashing both to serve the common good.  With the help of Congress, his administration implemented that plan, and the rest is (economic) history.  Hopefully one of the current presidential candidates will follow Reagan's example and articulate an optimistic vision for the nation's future coupled with a workable plan for making that vision a reality.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

How Not to Expand Access to College (or further the General Welfare)

Not a Federal Agency (Yet)

In a recent post on BloombergView, Professor Stephen Carter critiques plans by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders to reduce the price that some citizens pay at some colleges and universities.  As Carter explains, both plans seek to reduce the costs of attending public colleges and universities, thereby increasing access to higher education and reducing the debt burdens of those who matriculate.  The more ambitious (and more expensive) Sanders plan would provide states with federal grants of $47 billion annually on the condition that such states: (1) increase their yearly spending on higher education by $23 billion and (2) reduce tuition and fees to zero for all students, including those from wealthy families. The more modest Clinton plan would cost a mere $350 Billion over ten years and provide additional aid, in the form of grants, to students who are unable to pay their own way, thereby reducing the costs that such individuals must incur to attend public colleges and universities.  The plan would couple such aid with a requirement that recipients work 10 hours per week.  While the Sanders plan focuses solely on public universities, the Clinton plan sets aside funds to support a small number of private institutions that serve numerous low-income students.  To adopt such plans, a future Congress would have to exercise the power "[t]o lay and collect taxes . . . . to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States."  See U.S. Constitution, Article I, § 8.

Professor Carter begins his critique by questioning "the underlying assumption that college is too expensive."  Among other things he notes that a college education is an investment in human capital, and that, for those who complete college, the median return on such investments has "outstripped the rising cost." (See here for a prior elaboration of this point on this blog.) The real problem, Carter says, is that many students who pay such tuition, perhaps taking on debt to do so, never graduate and are thus unable to realize this return. Indeed, as previously explained on this blog, many state flagship universities have four year graduation rates of 25 percent or lower.    Even if college is too costly, Professor Carter says, both plans may well exacerbate the problem, by increasing the demand for such education and thus further increasing college costs.  Carter also suggests that, if enacted, either plan may include implicit price controls to combat increased costs, controls that Carter sagely considers counter-productive.  Indeed, a summary of the Sanders Plan expressly provides that state institutions would have to "meet a number of requirements designed to protect students, ensure quality and reduce ballooning costs," while simultaneously (and inconsistently) "reduc[ing] their reliance on low-paid adjunct faculty."  Secretary Clinton's plan is a little more vague, promising simply to require schools to "control costs" while simultaneously increasing spending on programs designed to increase graduation rates.

Professor Carter is right to be skeptical of these plans, particularly their motivating assumption that public colleges (the target of these proposals) are generally inaccessible to families of modest means. If anything, Carter is too kind to this assumption. After all, and as previously explained on this blog, many such institutions provide generous grant-based financial aid to low income students.  Indeed, some public colleges offer packages that are significantly more generous either the Sanders or Clinton plans, which focus on subsidizing tuition and fees while ignoring room and board.  That is, some public universities provide low income students free tuition, free fees and free room and board, allowing these students to graduate debt-free.  (See herehere, and here, for examples). Others heavily subsidize college costs, ensuring that students graduate with debt far below the actual cost and value of the education that such students receive.  (See here, here and here).   The University of Washington, for instance, has already replicated the result sought by the Sanders plan, providing low income students free tuition and fees, with the result that such students need only assume loans to cover room and board --- the type of expense students would incur whether or not they attended college.  Ditto for Arizona State, Texas A&M and Rutgers-Camden.  The University of Virginia caps student debt for in-state students at $14,000 over four years.    Some such schools also provide significant grant aid to students from middle class families.  Rutgers-Camden, for instance, provides grants equal to one half tuition and fees to students from families with incomes between $60,000 and $100,000 per year.  (See here).  Berkeley offers grant-based aid to students from families earning up to $140,000 annually.  (See here).  Various other institutions offer significant financial aid to middle class families as well.  (See here and here, for instance).

To be sure, students from wealthy families do not qualify for such aid because their families' income and/or assets exceed relevant thresholds.  Such students must pay full tuition and fees plus the cost of room and board.  The Clinton Plan would do nothing to help these individuals, and this omission from her plan is to be commended.  As W. Taylor Reveley III, President of the College of William and Mary recently put it, when speaking of tuition and fees at William and Mary (a public institution): "[I]f you come from a family who can afford to pay full freight, you are still getting excellent value for one of the best undergraduate educations in the world.”  Reveley of course is absolutely correct: tuition and fees at William and Mary, ranked 34th among national universities according to U.S. News, is $16,919, while tuition and fees at the University of Virginia, ranked 26th, is $14,526. By contrast, Tufts (27th), Boston College (30th) and Brandeis (34th) charge triple these amounts or more. Nonetheless, the Sanders plan would shift the cost of educating wealthy individuals at public universities entirely to taxpayers, while providing no additional assistance to students who attend more costly private institutions.  So far as this blogger is aware, Senator Sanders has not explained why American taxpayers must foot the bill so wealthy children can attend public universities for free.

In sum, the current landscape of higher education pricing for students of modest means hardly justifies centralized intervention and a resulting one-sized fits all solution that both candidates advocate to some degree.  Indeed, if enacted, the Sanders plan in particular risks preempting state institutions from offering free room and board and thus ensuring that students graduate debt free, as some schools currently do.  After all, schools generally rely upon tuition revenue to fund part of such aid, and the Sanders plan would eliminate this source of revenue.  Moreover, the Sanders Plan's ban on tuition and other forms of over-regulation that Professor Carter sagely predicts will place public institutions at a decided disadvantage vis a vis private institutions, who will be free of such federal micromanagement.   As previously explained on this blog, the decentralized nature of America's system of higher education, including competitive federalism, is its main strength.  Transforming America's public colleges and universities into quasi-federal agencies in furtherance of a new federal entitlement will undermine this strength.  If, as both candidates assume, the Nation can afford to spend many billions more each year on education, it would be far better to allocate such resources to K-12 education, preferably via a system of vouchers that would empower students and their families to exercise meaningful educational choice in a free market.  Such reform would help better prepare millions of students for college, enhance college graduation rates and do far more than either candidate's plan to advance the General Welfare.  

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The 239th Anniversary of the Battle of Trenton

Today is the 239th anniversary of the Battle of Trenton, a key American victory and a turning point of the Revolutionary War. Led by George Washington, the American army had retreated from New York, through New Jersey and into Philadelphia.  Hessian mercenaries were stationed across the Delaware River at Trenton, awaiting better weather before crossing the Delaware in pursuit. See Gary Hart, James Monroe: The Fifth President 1817-1825, 4-5 (2005). Outnumbered and with desertions mounting, Washington resolved to launch a preemptive assault against the Hessians. Inspired by Thomas Paine's December 23rd essay "The Crisis," Continental soldiers and troops from various state militias began crossing the Delaware late in the evening on Christmas Day, hoping to attack before dawn on December 26th.  Id.  The crossing took longer than expected, however, and hundreds of troops did not make it to Trenton. Many who did complete the crossing reported that their muskets and powder were wet and useless.  Despite these setbacks, Washington "resolved to push forward, and trust to Providence." See Washington Irving, 2 Life of George Washington, 417 (1856). Those without working muskets were ordered to "use the bayonet" instead.  Id.

Lt. James Monroe, recently an 18-year-old student at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, participated in the battle.  The young Monroe served in the Third Virginia Regiment, part of Brigadier General Alexander's Brigade, which in turn formed part of Nathaniel Greene's Division. (See here for the Order of Battle at Trenton) Early in the battle Monroe helped lead an assault on two Hessian cannons, taking a musket ball in the shoulder in the process. See Hart, James Monroe: Fifth President, at 6.  A statue of Monroe recently installed at William and Mary and pictured above memorializes the young Lieutenant's role in the battle.  One of eight friezes at the base of the statue depicts a scene from the battle, with Monroe, on the right, charging a Hessian gun emplacement.  The times, as Paine said, "tried men's souls" and caused "summer soldiers and sunshine patriots" to "shrink from the service of their country."  At Trenton, Monroe proved what his soul was made of. He was no "sunshine patriot." 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Portland Maine's 15th Annual Boat Parade of Lights

Portland, Maine has been staging a Christmas Boat Parade of Lights since 2001.  (For additional details on the history of the event, go here.)   Here is a video of this year's event, held earlier this month, from WPBN in Portland.  Others videos, some of greater length, can be found here, here and here