Beyond Labels

A 360° Discussion of Foreign, National and Local Policy Issues



Beyond Labels, December 30

For those of you in town, we will be meeting (as usual) today at 10:30am.

There is no set topic for the week, but I (Scott Miller) will come prepared with a couple of things to discuss if no one else has a compelling recommendation.

The Gap Between Spending and Results

This subject was discussed on December 23, 2013.

One of the key “talking points” used in the debate over the Affordable Care Act has been the fact that the U.S. spends substantially more than virtually any of our international “peers,” but has lagged those same peers in terms of health outcomes.  Similarly, the U.S. education system spends more per pupil than almost any other country, yet our students perform poorly on tests of reading, math and science skills. We could probably identify many similar situations…high spending, low outcomes…if we tried.

What is driving this enormous gap between financial commitment and results? To what degree does it have to do with:

  1. The role of Federal and local governments in education and, increasingly, in health care?
  2. Our expectations that, given our success of the last 50 years, we are somehow “entitled” to continued success?
  3. The changing roles and attitudes of our people, whether parents, children, healthy or infirm?
  4. In short, is this more a problem with the “system”…teachers, doctors, health care companies and administration…or with our “culture”?

Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions

This subject is scheduled to be discussed on December 9, 2013.

After years of an intensifying standoff between the U.N. Security Council and Iran, an agreement was recently announced to moderate the pace of Iran’s nuclear development and to provide a time frame for negotiating a more comprehensive agreement.

  • Does the agreement make war more or less likely? (On the face of it, many have argued that, while not perfect, the agreement makes military action much less likely. Others have taken the position that the six month time frame may severely narrow our options if the period elapses without significant progress toward a full agreement.)
  • Should Congress pass additional sanctions to bolster the pressure on Iran if they do not agree to severe limits on their nuclear activities?
  • What evidence is there that the Iranians are actually pursuing a nuclear weapon?
  • Israel and Saudi Arabia both seem to dislike this agreement…to what degree should that give the U.S. cause for concern?
  • How should we interpret the different ways the two sides characterize the agreement? The Iranians say the agreement recognizes their “right to enrich;” the US says they do not have any such right.)

Here are some recent Economist articles to read on the subject:

20131130 The Iran Deal (Economist)

20131130 Unlocking the Middle East (Economist)


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