1.) Every player in the higher education subsidy debate is a parasite — “When you inject government into an industry, you get some pretty unsavory results.” That’s the conclusion that the Examiner’s Tim Carney arrived at when he dived into the murky debate over federal subsidies for for-profit colleges. Institutions like University of Phoenix and Kaplan have been horning in on the market traditionally held by community colleges. But while claiming to offer a private alternative, for-profits aren’t offering a market-based alternative: They get most of their money from federally provided (or backed) student loans, which they are allowed to keep even if their students drop out. Short-sellers have set their sites on these companies, with one sending out employees to collect signatures from homeless shelter directors complaining about for-profits enrolling homeless people in order to swipe their federal aide money. “In effect,” writes Carney, “the for-profit colleges created a clash between two evils, with one side exploiting the homeless and the other side exploiting the homeless shelters.”
2.) Will 2011 be the year America goes bankrupt, state by state? — “The budget crises that have nearly paralyzed states such as California and Illinois are likely to get worse — not better, in 2011 — despite the massive cuts that have already been made,” writes The Daily Caller’s Joe Tauke. “Not only will the stimulus spigot be turned off, but the two-year Build America Bonds program is also shutting down, making debt more expensive for states and municipalities.” So, what now? Cities in Michigan and Alabama are pursuing bankruptcy. Other cities are cutting back everything: police patrols, street lights, parades, zoos. Despite these symbolic acts of belt-tightening, writes Tauke, “Financial analyst Meredith Whitney has warned that municipalities could default on ‘hundreds of billions’ of dollars in debt this year. Combined with state budget woes, some experts have warned that a debt crisis ‘contagion’ could spread through the U.S. like it has spread through Europe’s national governments.”
3.) Irony alert: D.C. airports consider ditching TSA for private contractors — “Some of the nation’s biggest airports are responding to recent public outrage over security screening by weighing whether they should hire private firms such as Covenant to replace the Transportation Security Administration,” reports the Washington Post. “For airports, the change isn’t about money. At issue, airport managers and security experts say, is the unwieldy size and bureaucracy of the federal aviation security system. Private firms may be able to do the job more efficiently and with a personal touch, they argue.” In addition to the 16 U.S. airports that have made the switch since 2002, both Dulles International and Reagan National–America’s airports, if you will–“are studying the option” of ditching the TSA and its federal fondlers.
4.) Will America’s southern neighbor disintegrate into war in 2011? — This is the last day for year-end lists, and Foreign Policy has a real doozy out: “Next Year’s Wars.” Ranking somewhere in the middle is America’s neighbor, Mexico. “Despite a $400 million annual aid package from the United States, and big boosts in funding for the military, it’s far from clear whether the government of Mexico is winning — or can win” its battle against the cartels, writes FP. Exactly how bad is it? “30,000 people have fallen victim to the conflict, many of them along the northern border with the United States, largely as a result of in-fighting among rival gangs vying for control of trafficking corridors. Today, Ciudad Juarez, a border city near Texas, competes with Caracas as the most deadly city in the world. Over the last 12 months, the violence has spread to Mexico’s economic and cultural hubs that were once considered immune from drug infiltration. To the north, Mexico’s organized crime routes now reach into nearly every metropolitan area of the United States.” Prospero feliz año nuevo, neighbors.
5.) Florida editorials diagnose Charlie Crist as a failure — With Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s term just days away from being over, The St. Pete Times and the Daytona Beach News-Journal are weighing in: “The self-styled ‘people’s governor’ will largely be remembered for style more than substance, for making the capital a more civil place and for treating others with respect and dignity, except for the insurance and power companies that Crist bashed regularly with populist abandon,” writes the St. Pete Times. “Driven by ambition, he set his sights on Washington, D.C., and ended up losing control of the agenda in Tallahassee. Crist served two years as governor before he succumbed to the urge to quickly capitalize on his status as a rising star in the national GOP. Then he gradually lost ideological and political coherence — and with that he also lost much of his ability to influence events in Florida,” writes the Daytona Beach News-Journal. But perhaps Crist isn’t receiving the credit he deserves: After four years of dodging seedy rumors about his personal life, rebutting allegations of cronyism and fraud, and ignoring the people who got him into office, Crist leaves Tallanasty with the 10th highest approval rating among American governors: 50 percent. That’s not half bad.
6.) What else can the state demand of us in exchange for our freedom? – “The story of the Scott Sisters, Gladys and Jamie, was a shining example of excess. For leading two men into an $11 robbery, the two sisters were sentenced to life in prison. Sixteen years gone by and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour has put an end to their imprisonment. But not without a twist,” writes attorney Scott Greenfield. Gladys must give a kidney to her ailing sister, Jamie. While the Scott sisters volunteered to the exchange, there is something dark and illiberal in making their freedom contingent on the surgery. Writes Greenfield: “What complicates this act of mercy is that the grant expressly requires the kidney transplant. If it was offered, even expected, but not incorporated as a requirement, there would be no issue when Gladys gives her kidney to her sister. But now, it’s a specific requirement. What if Gladys changes her mind? Do the Scott Sisters go back to prison to serve out the remainder of their lives? It would appear so.”