Point-of-ordering public policy makers

Point-of-ordering public policy makers

Elected and appointed public officials promulgating public policy far too often whistles past the graveyard of reality – would that it were, so to speak.

Sadly, the new year is barely a week old and three fresh examples of this fetid mindset have rolled down into the river valleys from high atop the peak of Mt. Misrepresentus.

To wit, times three:

In his inaugural speech beginning his third and final term as Allegheny County’s chief executive (ACE), Rich Fitzgerald highlighted some of his goals. Among them was, as reported by the Tribune-Review, “Establishing countywide pre-K programs to prepare young learners to start kindergarten … .”

Never mind that this concept of “universal pre-school” long has been panned as long on spending and short on results.

Culling results from state and national studies, many of the supposed “benefits” of pre-K evaporate by the end of kindergarten. Worse, tracking those children to third grade continued to show no cognitive benefit from preschool.

Critics of the studies invariably rely on that old education saw sent buzzing anew with each report of educational failure – “You get what you pay for.”

The implication, of course, is evermore dollars are needed to make the programs of liberal darlings work. Never mind example after example – among those myriad examples would be Pittsburgh Public Schools – show that throwing money at such problems invariably result in one thing and one thing only:

More expensive failures.

In that same inaugural address, the ACE highlighted the region’s economic growth over the past 20 years.

We’re not sure to what region Fitzgerald was referring, but it most certainly was not the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), of which Allegheny County is the largest component.

Modest economic growth has been reported in many comparably sized metros over the years but very weak job growth has dogged Greater Pittsburgh, including negative growth in the last year.

And the region’s poorest performance comes in some of the most important economic metrics, remind scholars at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (in Policy Brief, Vol. 19, No. 44).

“This outcome is not surprising,” two think tank Ph.D. economists wrote last month. “As we have noted for years, the constant interference with the market and generally unfriendly attitude toward the private sector and employers have tamped down growth prospects.”

Setting goals is one thing, touting things that simply don’t exist is another.

Over at the Allegheny County Health Department, new regulations are being considered in the aftermath of a six-day temperature inversion last month that allowed pollutants to reach unhealthful levels.

Officials say it’s only the fourth such event in more than a decade.

What happened? “Climate change,” a health department official mimicked the politically correct line.

Not so fast, a National Weather Service meteorologist in the Pittsburgh office said.

“Climate change” will not necessarily lead to more frequent temperature inversions, Shannon Hefferan told the Tribune-Review. Such inversions occur only when warm air traps cold air near the Earth’s surface.

It’s called weather.

Given that “climate change” has become the thing that a whole lot of people blame for a whole lot of things, what’s next? Maybe Pittsburgh Public Schools will blame it for chronic absenteeism and continuing pathetic academic performance?

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).