Sean Kershaw's Weblog
July 21, 2006
Before I criticize, I have to say that I think Joel is a model for how to have a civil and productive conversation. I've always seen him maintains his humor, his insight and his openness to other ideas -- even with people who disagree profoundly with him (like me sometimes). I'm glad they are doing the work they are doing. They are raising important questions -- and he and Lori are great partners in this policy work. (And I'd say the same thing about Mitch and David.)
Having said that, I offer three challenges and criticisms to what they are proposing. (My August Viewpoint will say more.)
1) The connection between money and outcomes is weak weak weak. On the issues that matter most to Minnesotans, e.g. education and healthcare, there is little evidence that more money into our current system will get the outcomes we want. We're faced with the uncomfortable situation where cutting funding might hurt outcomes in these issues, but raising spending won't improve outcomes.
I think we need to reform systems before spending more money. Do more with what we spend now.
Their work proposes spending resources on "cost effective" proposals (like early childhood education, where the connection between money and outcomes is much stronger), but I don't think this is really the point of their much larger argument for more spending. For example light rail may be necessary, but their are additional ways to improve congestion than what they recommend for example -- policy choices that are much less expensive. (See our transportation report - Driving Blind.)
2) Don't call for increased spending without proposing solutions to the "tails" -- the out-year cost crunch of long-term care. Whether or not we can "afford" increased spending now has to be put in context with the long-term implications of more entitlement spending and programs, when we don't have solutions for how to pay for items like pensions and long-term care in the future.
Before calling for more spending, I think it's only responsible for proposing how we'll pay for it in 15 years.
3) The public gets that more money isn't the answer. The politics are wrong for this proposal. I got angry when someone in the audience suggested that people who didn't support this were stupid -- literally. Quite the contrary. Citizens are smart enough to get that our current approach to spending on education and healthcare isn't delivering outcomes that they expect.
Posted by Sean Kershaw at July 21, 2006 7:03 AM