From David Brooks's New York Times column today: "Civic organizations, local business groups and municipal leagues run from Orlando to Kansas City to Seattle. These groups are filled with local leaders who lobby for balanced budgets, infrastructure plans and other worthy causes."
Mr. Brooks seems to think that anything described as an "infrastructure plan" is ipso facto a "worthy cause." That's silly. The "bridge to nowhere" was an infrastructure plan. I'm skeptical of plans as a general matter, but I'm willing to concede that some infrastructure plans may be worthy, so long as Mr. Brooks is willing to concede that not all infrastructure plans are worthy.
Later on in the column, Mr. Brooks writes, "there also have to be investments in things that will produce a vibrant economy for our children: a simpler tax system with lower rates on investment; more scientific research; a giant effort to improve Hispanic graduation rates; medical courts to rationalize the malpractice system and so on." He lost me at "a giant effort to improve Hispanic graduation rates." Graduation from what? College? We sure wouldn't want them to end up as college dropouts like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, or all the other very successful high school and college dropouts documented on the Web site CollegeDropoutsHallofFame.com.
If it's poverty Mr. Brooks is concerned about, the percentage of American blacks in poverty is actually worse than the percentage of Hispanics. And for Hispanics, income data may be unreliable because of the reluctance of illegal immigrants to report under-the-table income to government statisticians. If previous generations of immigrants are any indication, the dropout problem will take care of itself in a generation or two. I do think something has to be done about immigration reform, but that's a different but related issue. In the meantime, if Hispanics are deciding they are better off starting small businesses than investing $200,000 or more or going into debt for enduring what is, in the worst-case scenario, four years of pompous pontification by left-wing ex-hippy Baby Boomer college professors, why mount a giant effort to stop that? The effect would just be to further enrich the professoriate.