Michael Bloomberg

Bloomberg gets it and is prepared to put his money where his mouth is

There is a saying that no one wins taking on the NRA.

They regularly rinse candidates and deploy their considerable resources against politicians who seek to impinge of the rights of all Americans to keep and bear arms.

But Michael Bloomberg is going to give it a crack at taking on the NRA…and spending $50 million to do it. He at least understands the daunting task, though I suspect his $50 million will be ineffective against the campaigning prowess of the NRA, who in all likelihood will use this declaration of war as a fundraising drive and pick up even more cash.

Michael R. Bloomberg, making his first major political investment since leaving office, plans to spend $50 million this year building a nationwide grass-roots network to motivate voters who feel strongly about curbing gun violence, an organization he hopes can eventually out muscle the National Rifle Association.

Mr. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, said gun control advocates need to learn from the N.R.A. and punish those politicians who fail to support their agenda — even Democrats whose positions otherwise align with his own.

“They say, ‘We don’t care. We’re going to go after you,’ ” he said of the N.R.A. “ ‘If you don’t vote with us we’re going to go after your kids and your grandkids and your great-grandkids. And we’re never going to stop.’ ”

He added: “We’ve got to make them afraid of us.”  Read more »

Charter schools are working, but New York’s mayor wants to stop them

Labour, the Greens and the teacher unions all hate charter schools.

They can produce no evidence to support their claims, they just hate them because they do not like the challenge to the hegemony and control of the unions in our schools.

The same irrational opposition is also evident overseas.

OF THE 658 schools in Chicago, only 126 are charter schools—publicly funded but independently run and largely free of union rules. Fifteen more are due to open this year. More notable, though, is that four of the most recently-approved charters are in areas where the city recently decided to close 49 public schools—the largest round of such closures in America’s history.

Most of the closed schools served poor black children, and were in parts of the city with a shrinking population. The city government argued that these schools were under-used, and that closing them would save $233m that could be reinvested. So it has been: in new science labs, computers, wireless, libraries, art rooms and air conditioning in the charters that took in children from the closed schools.

Charters have worked well in Chicago. Most parents like them, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Board of Education are behind them. The Noble Network, which already runs 14 charter high schools, has just been given permission to open two new ones. Around 36% of the 9,000, mostly poor, children enrolled with Noble can expect to graduate from college, compared with 11% for this income bracket city-wide.

A 2013 study by Stanford University found that the typical Illinois charter pupil (most of them in Chicago) gained two weeks of additional learning in reading, and a month in maths, over their counterparts in traditional public schools. One city network of charters, Youth Connection, is credited with reducing Chicago’s dropout rate by 7% in a decade. Overall, however, the city’s public schools are in a sorry state: 51,000 out of 240,000 elementary-school pupils did not meet state reading standards in 2013.

Some will always argue that charters cream off the brighter children and leave sink schools, deprived of resources, behind. The teachers’ unions hate charter schools because they are non-unionised. So they remain a rarity nationwide, with only 5% of children enrolled in them. But a PDK/Gallup poll last year found that 70% of Americans support them. Small wonder: a study of charter high schools in Florida found that they boosted pupils’ earning power in later life by more than 10%.  Read more »

Teacher Unions, same the world over…scum

The head of the teachers union in New York is boasting that he will anoint the next mayor and is preparing to go to war in the mayoral election by spending large amounts doing that.

This year’s mayoral race is one of the most chaotic in decades, with more than seven Democratic hopefuls fighting for slivers in a primary that is expected to turn out fewer than 600,000 voters. With the primary still wide open, Mr. Mulgrew believes that his union has the power to crown the new king or queen.

“We’re not about picking a mayor,” Mr. Mulgrew told Politicker last week at George’s, a diner near the union’s lower Manhattan headquarters. “We’re about making a mayor, making the winner. And that’s what we’re gonna to do.”

For the past four years, the UFT has been working to build up an army of volunteers, pollsters and operatives. By the union’s count, its endorsements will deliver more than 230,000 members, when retirees, family members and others who live in members’ homes are included. The union is also planning to spend in the mid to high seven figures on the race, according to a source familiar with the organization’s finances.  Read more »

Bad news for anti-smoking zealots

The anti-smoking wowsers want to end smoking and one of their tools suggested is massive tax increases…problem is it won’t work.

“IF IT were totally up to me, I would raise the cigarette tax so high the revenues from it would go to zero,” thundered Michael Bloomberg back in 2002. New York city’s combative mayor has since raised cigarette taxes several times. The effect has been limited, so he wants to try something new. He recently proposed to outlaw discounting cigarettes and displaying them openly in stores.

Whether these measures will be approved—and help—remains to be seen. But Mr Bloomberg may well be right to push for more bans. A new paper by Abel Brodeur of the Paris School of Economics, based on extensive surveys in America, suggests that bans on smoking are not just effective but actually make smokers happier. By not allowing them to light up in restaurants and bars (as New York already does), governments give weaker-willed individuals an excuse to do what they otherwise cannot: stop smoking. As an additional benefit, bans also seem to make spouses of smokers happier.  Read more »

Send fat bastards out to sea

Despite Bloomberg’s loss in court over his ridiculous soda ban he and the city are trying to appeal the court decision. But perhaps there is a better way:

Bloomberg is a true believer in the lifesaving consequences of his health agenda, and his smoking ban did indeed sweep the country. Yet his soda measure is so obviously ineffectual symbolism that it has a whiff of imposing his will for the sheer sake of it.

The city’s lawyers argued in court that the Board of Health could hand down the new soda rule because it has broad powers to fight disease. But there is a difference between an outbreak of a deadly communicable disease that has people dropping in the streets and excessive soda consumption. If someone drinks a 32-ounce Cherry Coke next to you at a movie theater, it doesn’t make you sick.  Read more »

Mikey Bloomberg needs a fat bastard tax

Michael Bloomberg’s planned soft drink tax took one in the chook:

A judge struck down New York City’s groundbreaking limit on the size of sugar-laden drinks shortly before it was set to take effect.

The judge agreed with the beverage industry and other opponents that the rule is arbitrary in applying to only some sweet beverages and some places that sell them.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has championed the rule as a pioneering move for fighting obesity. It follows on other efforts his administration has made to improve New Yorkers’ eating habits, from compelling chain restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus to barring artificial trans-fats in restaurant food to prodding food manufacturers to use less salt.  Read more »

Slaying property price myths

Labour and the Greens think they can control the market when it comes to house prices…they are dreaming.

It seems that New York and Australia have a housing crisis each as well…or so the media and politicians would tell us:

IN NEW YORK they are building tiny apartments less than half the size of cricket pitches. This week the city’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, announced the winner of a design competition to build an apartment tower housing apartments of 300 square feet. In Australian parlance, that’s 28 square metres. That’s a portaloo block. That’s half a tennis court halved, then halved again, then halved again, with a balcony.

“We have a shortfall now of 800,000, and it’s only going to get worse,” Bloomberg said of the city’s dwelling stock.

“This is going to be a big problem for cities with young people.”

It has become a commonplace that in big cities in Australia – cities with young people – there is a housing crisis. In this context the term refers to a different sort of housing crisis to the one that swept through much of the US and Europe, where prices dropped and millions were kicked out of homes because they could not meet repayments.

In the Australian context, the term refers to the opposite sort of housing crisis – where people struggle to get into homes in the first place because they are so expensive.

It is more a New York-style of housing crisis.

Demographia, a research firm, has a knack of winning headlines with yearly reports demonstrating just how unaffordable Australian cities are. The most recent iteration hit the papers this week, with its assertion Australian houses were the world’s third least affordable, behind Hong Kong and Canada.

Sound familiar…Len Brown and labour are certainly planning New York style teeny-tiny apartments…they are deciding what we should live in, not the market. Being socialists though they will more likely be like Soviet style or Chinese tower blocks.

The news media here loved to use the Demographia Survey released a few days ago to have a larrup  at housing affordability…except there is a flaw in the data that they so loving used to beat the government over the head with.

It is obviously very expensive to live in big cities such as Sydney and Melbourne. It is expensive, and fast becoming more so, to rent. And it remains, in raw terms, expensive to buy. Just not the way Demographia described it.

The ratio of median income to average dwelling prices is the most commonly cited measure used to demonstrate how expensive Australian property is. Across the country, this ratio reached a peak of about seven (meaning dwelling prices were worth seven times median annual income) in 2003-04. In capital cities, the ratio was above eight. In Sydney it was above nine.

Historically, this looked high. In the mid-1980s the ratio was about three. The ratio also looked – and looks – high in international terms. This is where Demographia’s surveys, which always place Australia at or near the apex of the world’s least affordable cities, get their popular bite.

But Australian house prices are not international outliers. A Reserve Bank paper last month compared the ratio of incomes to house prices in Australia to a range of comparable countries, but used a different measure of income.

It used an average measure of income from the national accounts (which can therefore be compared to other countries’ national accounts) that was different in a number of respects from median income, one of which was in including income deposited in superannuation accounts.

This sounds strange, because people generally do not use superannuation income to buy and pay off a house.

But it is needed for a fair international comparison, because in places without advanced super systems people still save for their retirements but in ways that are included in national accounts measures of income.

And when you use these national accounts measures, Australian house and apartment prices are pretty much in the middle of countries like France, Belgium, Germany, Canada, Norway and New Zealand.

It is all about the sexy headlines though…while ignoring that there are plenty of ways with which to analyse data.

But the bigger problem with reports like Demographia’s is that they blinker a view of what real housing problems.

What reports like Demographia’s fail to capture – and what terms like ”housing crisis” and ”mortgage stress” in fact only obscure – is the variety of ways in which people respond to what is not so much a crisis as a market.

There are some people in Australia facing a housing crisis. They are homeless. They are couples and individuals facing retirement in a private rental system that offers scant solace to those with little independent income or savings.

Otherwise, people are making choices that invariably respond to the incentives and prices in a big city housing market.

These choices can be uncomfortable – moving back with your parents to save for a mortgage, living in a smaller apartment than you might like. But these are only crises in the sense that seasonal rain is: they can be a drag but they are manageable.

People respond to the Australian housing market every day in decisions about where to live, who to live with, about what to go with or without.

What’s been missing is a similar flexibility and responsiveness on the part of government to help those who genuinely need it; to ensure that if you’re going to live in an apartment the size of a New York shoebox you can be sure it is well made and that you won’t regret the investment; or if you are going to move somewhere with more space, you will have the roads, busways and train stations to ensure that a decision compelled by the housing market doesn’t require cutting you off from the rest of the city.

Len Brown for sure isn;t go to do any of that while he remains focussed on a silly city rail loop.


Beware the Health Commissars

NZ Herald

The Health Commissars are on the march. Now they want to ban legal products from advertising their wares. I expect Cat Pause will protest this though because it discriminates against her beloved fatties:

Health officials worried about an obesity epidemic want fast-food advertising dropped from public property, including bus shelters, and are questioning fast-food and soft-drink sponsorship of public events.

They have also raised concerns over the lack of political power to stop fast-food restaurants being built near schools and in poor areas.

The moves by the Auckland Regional Public Health Service are a return to the healthy-eating principles which drove the national ban on pies in school tuck shops.

The ban was among the last moves of the outgoing Labour Government in 2008. It lasted eight months, then was overturned by the National Government.

And they mirror moves in New York, where mayor Michael Bloomberg has upset the fast-food industry by banning trans-fats and super-size soft drinks.

Profiting from Success AND pissing off pinkos

New York Times

Here is a good idea for Paula Bennett and Anne Tolley to consider…at the same time as cleverly funding social programmes it will also unhinge the labour and Green parties:

New York City, embracing an experimental mechanism for financing social services that has excited and worried government reformers around the world, will allow Goldman Sachs to invest nearly $10 million in a jail program, with the pledge that the financial services giant would profit if the program succeeded in significantly reducing recidivism rates.

The city will be the first in the United States to test “social impact bonds,”also called pay-for-success bonds, which are an effort to find new ways to finance initiatives that might save governments money over the long term.

First used in Britain and now being explored in Australia,the bonds are rapidly capturing the imagination of some public officials in the United States: on Wednesday, Massachusetts announced that it was completing negotiations with two nonprofit groups to finance juvenile justice and homelessness programs, with the promise of repayment only if the programs work.

The federal government, Connecticut, New York State and Cuyahoga County, Ohio, among others, are at various stages of considering using the bonds to harness new funds for human-services programs.

In New York City, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg plans to announce on Thursday that Goldman Sachs will provide a $9.6 million loan to pay for a new four-year program intended to reduce the rate at which adolescent men incarcerated at Rikers Island reoffend after their release.

Is Dave copying Len?

The Telegraph

David Cameron is looking like falling for “The Bloomberg” sting…like Len Brown did:

* Mr Cameron intends to travel to the Olympic games on the Tube and will be taking prominent business leaders with him to events