Policy: Economy

Big ideas: On Ben & Jerry's, Justin Bieber and school choice

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Education,Jobs,PennAve,Joseph Lawler,Economy,Think Tanks,Minimum Wage,Justin Bieber

Mijin Cha for Demos' policy shop: While Congress deserves its share of blame for refusing to raise the minimum wage, corporations are also to blame because they have kept wages stagnant while ensuring profit and shareholder returns skyrocket.

Boeing is a perfect example of this dynamic. In return for receiving the largest single state-tax giveaway in the nation's history -- $8.7 billion -- the company wanted to pay its workers as little as possible, slash their benefits, and freeze their pension benefits. And, in the end, Boeing got everything it wanted: a record-breaking level of tax breaks and significant workers' concessions ...

But, not all corporations work this way. Ben & Jerry’s, another large corporation, had $132 million in annual sales yet the lowest paid hourly worker makes 46 percent above the living wage. Additionally, more than 40 percent of the board and management are from underrepresented [populations] and more than 50 percent of emissions are offset with certified carbon offsets.

So, what explains the difference between how Boeing treats its workers and Ben & Jerry’s? The answer is simple: values. Ben & Jerry’s, even though it is a wholly owned subsidiary of Unilever, chose an alternative corporate structure and certified as a Benefit Corporation, or B-Corp. ... Pioneered by B Lab, B Corps provide legal protection for for-profit businesses to prioritize a higher purpose than profit, such as environmental sustainability and higher wages.

We highlighted their success a while ago and since that time, eight additional states and D.C. have passed laws allowing B-Corps, including Delaware where 50 percent of all publicly traded companies, and 64 percent of the Fortune 500 are incorporated, a list that includes Boeing.

 

IS BIEBER REALLY AN ADULT?

Zach McDade and John Roman for the Urban Institute's MetroTrends: Nineteen-year-old megastar Justin Bieber dominated social media and the news ... following his arrest for allegedly street racing a yellow Lamborghini in Miami while drunk and high.

Brazen and unnecessary though his escapade undoubtedly was, there’s a good argument that he should not be processed as an adult under the law. In fact, Bieber might be just the flashy example we need of a third path in the criminal justice system. ...

Maybe all of that means that we actually need a three-tiered criminal justice system, one that treats kids and adults in different ways, while also making room for that important middle ground: young adults in their late teens and early twenties.

Consider this: in Florida, because Bieber is 19, he will be processed in the adult criminal justice system. But, had he already been in the custody of the juvenile justice system for a delinquency case, he would be eligible to remain there until he was 21.

That may be a better approach, with mounting evidence that putting juveniles in adult facilities harms their futures. It results in limitations on housing and employment after release, and limits with whom they can associate. What’s more, treating juveniles as adults tends to increase the number of crimes they commit as adults.

Instead, we all stand to gain from a third system geared toward young adults for whom a therapeutic rather than punitive response is likely to be more beneficial to everyone. Florida law already recognizes that someone like Bieber is somewhere between adolescence and adulthood. Successfully intervening with Bieber, already immeasurably influential, could positively affect how we think about young people and crime to the benefit of thousands of others.

 

SCHOOLS NEED COMPETITION

Mike McShane for the American Enterprise Institute's AEIdeas: Two things are hard to argue:

1. Getting a quality education is important.

2. Today’s education system fails to deliver a quality education to a wide swath of American students.

As my colleague Mark Perry loves to point out, our world has grown and evolved an incredible amount in recent decades. Unfortunately, our schools have not seen a similar growth trajectory. This shouldn't be terribly surprising. If you could hop in a time machine and travel back 20, 30, or 40 years, our schools wouldn't look that different. Mostly schools would have a series of classrooms with a single teacher in the front of the room teaching 25 or so students who are roughly the same age, as they do now. Maybe today they have a digital projector where they used to have a chalkboard, but the basic organization and delivery of schooling simply hasn't changed that much.

Why has this happened?

Put simply, schools haven’t had to evolve like enterprises in competitive markets. If auto manufacturers made the same cars they made in 1974, they’d be out of business. If computer companies still charged thousands of dollars for computers with 64 megabytes of hard drive space, they’d be out of business. But our education system keeps plodding along, year after year, making some improvements in some places at some times, to be sure, but not rising in quality at the same rate as almost any other good or service in our economy.

School choice fundamentally challenges the organizational structure of schools by allowing parents to choose where their child goes to school, supported by public dollars. ...

A choice-based system encourages schools to compete for students, to differentiate themselves, and to make sure they are meeting their students’ needs. It allows parents to sort into schools that offer the educational program that they think best fits their child. It closes schools that fail to meet students’ needs. It can even, if the program is designed correctly, encourage efficiency and wise stewardship of tax dollars.

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