This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, which deregulated American freight…
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Happy 40th to the Staggers Rail Act, Which Deregulated and Saved the U.S. Rail Industry

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, which deregulated American freight rail and saved it from looming oblivion.

At the time of passage, the U.S. economy muddled along amid ongoing malaise, and our rail industry teetered due to decades of overly bureaucratic sclerosis.  Many other domestic U.S. industries had disappeared, and our railroads faced the same fate.  But by passing the Staggers Rail Act, Congress restored a deregulatory approach that in the 1980s allowed other U.S. industries to thrive.  No longer would government determine what services railroads could offer, their rates or their routes, instead restoring greater authority to the railroads themselves based upon cost-efficiency.

Today, U.S. rail flourishes even amid the coronavirus pandemic…[more]

October 13, 2020 • 11:09 PM

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Jester's CourtroomLegal tales stranger than stranger than fiction: Ridiculous and sometimes funny lawsuits plaguing our courts.
College is Overdue for a Market Correction Print
By Ben Boychuk
Thursday, February 04 2016
Lawmakers around the country would do well to watch and learn from what’s happening in the Show Me State. It reveals a sharp disconnect between the goals of higher education and actual practice.

Fighting for social justice isn’t cheap. Turns out, the student demonstrations that disrupted college and university campuses last fall are having some baleful economic consequences — at least in Missouri. And that is a very good thing. The higher education bubble could use some deflating, and if the spectacle of campus unrest has parents and taxpayers rethinking the value of a four-year degree, at least as it’s currently constituted, so much the better.

Standard & Poor’s, the bond-rating company, announced on Monday that it had lowered the outlook of the four-campus University of Missouri’s AA+ credit rating from “stable” to “negative.” An announcement like that usually precedes a credit downgrade.

S&P’s report notes that the university system will need to see a “marked improvement in available resources to debt.” But that’s going to be a challenge. As the agency points out, “recent senior management changes” and “campus events” could be detrimental to enrollment.

University president Tim Wolfe resigned in November in the face of mounting student protests against what they perceived as his administration’s insensitivity to several alleged racist incidents on campus. The decisive factor appeared to be a threat from Mizzou’s varsity football team to go on strike unless Wolfe quit his post. Instead of reminding the football players that their scholarships depended on their play, Wolfe turned sheepish and acquiesced.

The bond-rating agency actually understates the case. It isn’t true that “campus events” could affect enrollment — in fact, they already have. Applications for the 2016-17 academic year are down substantially. According to a memo leaked to the local ABC News affiliate in Columbia, Missouri, undergraduate applications fell five percent over the previous year. Graduate school applications are down 19 percent.

Even worse, the quality of applicants is on a downward trajectory. Applications from students with high ACT scores (30 or better) were down 7.7 percent, while the number of black applicants declined by 19 percent. “With fewer applicants to choose from, particularly at the top end, Mizzou’s incoming class is almost sure to be less qualified than its predecessor,” wrote University of Missouri law professor Thomas A. Lambert in a commentary for the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. 

Lambert points out, too, that the decline in undergraduate applications was almost exclusively from out-of-state applicants. “A substantial reduction in out-of-state students, who pay much more in tuition than do Missouri residents, will impair the university’s financing,” he noted.

And it’s unlikely that the state will come to Mizzou’s rescue. To the university community, the protests were deadly serious — a righteous backlash against institutional racism, unacknowledged privilege and a long train of historical abuses. But many Missourians simply didn’t believe the protests, sit-ins and hunger strikes were anywhere in the realm of reasonable. Antics of faculty members such as Melissa Click, the literature professor caught on camera calling for “muscle” to remove a student journalist from a protest site, certainly didn’t help the cause. Naturally, state legislators have responded by threatening to slash the university’s funding next year. Why should taxpayers subsidize such folly? 

Why indeed? Lawmakers around the country would do well to watch and learn from what’s happening in the Show Me State. It reveals a sharp disconnect between the goals of higher education and actual practice.

For several years now, economists have warned of a higher-education bubble. Most Americans continue to believe that higher education is the surest way to improve one’s economic lot in life. Yet total college enrollment has been declining since 2012. Why? Part of it is demographics — there was a drop in births in the 1990s.

But a better explanation boils down to costs and benefits. As economists Richard Vedder and Christopher Denhart argue, “the benefits of a degree are declining while costs rise.” Students are graduating with higher student-loan debt and fewer job prospects. A bachelor’s degree simply isn’t worth as much as it used to be.

The typical response to higher tuition, at least from the Democratic Party, has been to call for more subsidies. President Obama last year proposed making two-year community college tuition free for almost everyone. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says she would do that, and spend even more money. Not to be outdone, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) says he would make four-year college tuition free for all comers.

But as Standard & Poor’s credit downgrade suggests, the market clearly has other ideas about the future of higher education. When universities become obsessed with the politics of race and gender, as seems to be the case not only in Missouri but also on elite college campuses across the country, then taxpayers cannot be blamed for rethinking their investment. Nothing is so expensive as a “free” government service.

Question of the Week   
Which one of the following was the first 20th century presidential candidate to call for a Presidential Debate?
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Quote of the Day   
 
"In nominating Barrett to the Supreme Court, [President Trump] kept his promise by choosing an undaunted originalist -- someone who interprets the Constitution based on the understanding held by its ratifiers.Trump's most profound effect on the Constitution will come when she and the other Trump Justices apply that originalism to the questions of liberty and equality."Read entire article here.…[more]
 
 
—John C. Yoo, Heller Professor Law at U.C. Berkeley School of Law
— John C. Yoo, Heller Professor Law at U.C. Berkeley School of Law
 
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Do you believe Republicans will continue to hold a majority in the U.S. Senate following the 2020 election?