In “How the Other Half Learns,” Oren Cass—author of the celebrated new book on the labor force, The Once and Future Worker—laments our current educational priorities. Year after year, Cass observes, we pour more public funds into college, totaling more than $150 billion annually. Yet who is benefiting? Only 16 out of 100 students move smoothly through the high-school-to-college-to-career pipeline that the system says should be the norm; many never complete their degrees but do wind up buried in tuition debt. In truth, says Cass, college isn’t the right choice for millions of Americans. He argues that we need to invigorate vocational training opportunities, starting in high school, and make them just as valued a life option as a four-year university degree.
Battered by environmentalists and public fears, atomic energy has fallen on hard times in the United States—a decline reflected in the coming shutdown of Indian Point Energy Center, a plant 30 miles north of Manhattan that currently provides a quarter of Gotham’s electricity. As onetime Popular Mechanics editor James B. Meigs argues in “The Nuclear Option,” this shift away from the atom is a mistake. Alternative energy sources can’t match the efficiency and reliability of nuclear power, which is also environmentally clean—and far safer than its reputation suggests. Meigs’s essay should make even antinuke types think twice. But as Guy Sorman’s profile of renegade climatologist Judith Curry proves, environmental debates too often leave dispassionate reason behind.
Defenders of profligate states like Illinois, New Jersey, and New York have long justified outsize government spending by saying that voters value the great services they get for handing over their (copious) tax dollars. In “The Real Problem with the Blue-State Model,” Steven Malanga explodes that conceit. In fact, the blue states are increasingly failing at the kinds of things voters think that government should do well—from building and repairing roads and bridges to running transit systems and airports—even as taxes swell. Small wonder people are fleeing for cheaper states, where the services are often superior, anyway. The damning question for the blue states: What’s happening to all the money?
New York City’s streets are incredibly congested, especially in midtown Manhattan, where cars now move barely faster than pedestrians. The city’s clogged arteries are both an economic and quality-of-life threat. Nicole Gelinas’s “Decongesting New York” analyzes how everything slowed to a crawl and lays out an achievable agenda to get traffic flowing again. The city, Gelinas argues, should establish a market for valuable road space—what policy wonks call “congestion pricing”—to encourage drivers to seek transportation alternatives; and it should redesign its streets and enforce the rules, to make them friendlier to buses, bikes, and pedestrians. Finally, New York must also improve its crumbling mass-transit system.
In recent years, critics have condemned the New York Police Department’s 1990s-era policing revolution, which rescued the city from terrifying crime and disorder, as overly aggressive, hostile to neighborhood life, and often racially biased. Far better, these critics contend, for cities to embrace “community policing,” where cops work together with residents and businesses to make the streets safe. Legendary criminologist George L. Kelling, who worked as a consultant with the NYPD during the early days of the crime turnaround, explains in “Community Policing, Rightly Understood” how this new narrative gets everything wrong. In fact, Kelling shows, the NYPD’s success was always based on a cooperative relationship with the public.
With his usual unflinching eye, Michael J. Totten, in “Off the Richter Scale,” reports on the disaster slowly generating beneath the Pacific Northwest. Plate shifts in the Cascadia Subduction Zone are producing the conditions for a massive earthquake, far greater than the worst possible scenario along the San Andreas fault—a seismic event, too powerful to measure using the Richter scale, that will unleash massive tsunamis upon, and shatter the earth along, the heavily populated northern Pacific coast. The cost in human lives and property damage will be immense. Officials are scrambling to prepare, but will they have time?
—Brian C. Anderson