Minority rule. The Ferndale School District in Michigan released an employment policy that said, in part: “Should there be two (2) or more of these applicants with equal qualifications for the position and one (1) or more of these applicants with equal qualifications is a current employee, the current employee with the greatest seniority shall be assigned. Special consideration shall be given to women and/or minority defined as: Native American, Asian American, Latino, African American and those of the non-Christian faith.” Local conservative bloggers found the story, and others gave it national attention. All the attention was too much for the school district. It deleted the language giving preference to “non-Christian faith.” According to The Republic, “State Rep. Tim Kelly has asked the state Board of Education to investigate. The Saginaw Township Republican says he's glad the language is being purged, but says it's disturbing it was put there in the first place.”
Job prospects suffering? Edward Lazear, a former chairman of President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors, says that, despite falling unemployment numbers, the job situation is actually deteriorating. He says the number of hours people are working each week is falling, and Obamacare, which is forcing employers to reduce hours for some employees, is a possible cause. I do not find his arguments thoroughly convincing. Recent productivity gains might have pushed the total number of hours worked by Americans to near-record highs, setting up for the latest drop. A decline was not unexpected. Still, his arguments are interesting.
Quantitative easing unwound. Yesterday, the Federal Reserve Board had its first meeting with Janet Yellen as its chair. Most say she acquitted herself admirably at the post-meeting press conference. The key announcement was the decision to reduce bond buying yet again to $55 billion. This reduction is the second in recent months and a sign that the Fed believes the economic recovery continues. Yellen also attempted to clarify when the Fed might raise short-term interest rates. She said rates could start rising as early as mid-2015. That could mean increased borrowing costs for businesses, and it might hurt stock prices. Her comments, combined with the reduction in the bond purchases, caused the Dow Jones Industrial Average to drop more than 100 points.
How far they’ve fallen. The news that former Democratic Party Chairman Robert Strauss has died at age 95 reminds me how much the party has changed in the past 30 years. Strauss, though a wildly-effective fundraiser and advocate for his own party, was respected by Republicans. He was a key strategist in Jimmy Carter’s 1976 election. Carter got a majority of the evangelical vote that year. Strauss served Carter as a special envoy to the Middle East and helped to broker the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. He also served as ambassador to the Soviet Union, and then Russia, under President George H.W. Bush. Strauss even served as an advisor to President Ronald Reagan. Strauss’ moderate-to-conservative views on many (though not all) issues caused him to fall out of favor with Democrats. In the last years of his life, he was, politically, a man without a party. He had a life outside of politics; his investment acumen—mostly in Texas real estate—made him a millionaire early in his adult life, and he founded the legal powerhouse Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, one of the country’s largest and most influential law firms.